A Northrop Grumann-built MQ-4C Triton took to the skies for the first time in the highly upgraded multi-intelligence configuration known as integrated functional capability four (IFC-4). This will give the U.S. Navy a tremendously powerful reconnaissance vehicle in the future, which is expected to be ready for use in 2023.
The turbofan-powered robotic aircraft in its new configuration is being developed by the U.S. Navy and Royal Australian Air Force for advanced high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE), maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Multi-intelligence capabilities, coupled with MQ-4C Triton’s long-range sensors and 24-hour endurance, will enable an unprecedented amount of maritime situational awareness to inform real-time decision-making at tactical to strategic levels.
The U.S. Navy is currently operating two baseline configuration Tritons in the Pacific region as part of an early operational capability deployment. The Triton program expects to achieve initial operating capability (IOC) in early 2023.
The Navy will eventually maintain five 24/7 operational orbits with a planned 68-aircraft program of record. The multi-intelligence configuration will also enable the Navy to retire the EP-3E Aries patrol craft, which first joined Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron One in 1969, as Triton will be able to assume the intelligence collection missions currently conducted by the Aries.
“This hugely important milestone for our Triton Multi-INT program is the culmination of over five years of intense engineering, integration, and test, and represents the efforts of the hundreds of team members who have worked so tirelessly to achieve this Herculean task,” said Capt. Dan Mackin, Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems program manager.
“The Multi-INT capability that the U.S. Navy and Royal Australian Air Force have procured through Northrop Grumman, our Naval Warfare Centers, and our GFE partners is like no other – 360-degree AESA maritime radar, full-motion EO/IR video streaming, high-altitude, long-endurance, full-spectrum signals intelligence and the pipes to send multiple data types to ships, aircraft, and intelligence community ground stations allow our forces to hold adversaries at risk and protect the peace which is so vital to our national interest.”