The unmanned ISR platform has conducted test flights with new capability for the first time.
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Northrop Grumman has confirmed that its MQ-4C Triton — a high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) platform, to be used for maritime ISR operations — has conducted its maiden flight with “highly upgraded” multi-intelligence configuration, referred to as integrated functional capability four (IFC-4).
The new feature is designed to enhance maritime situational awareness to better inform real-time decision making at tactical to strategic levels.
According to Northrop Grumman, the IFC-4 would enable the US Navy to retire the Lockheed Martin-built EP-3E Aries fleet, by assuming intelligence collection missions.
Doug Shaffer, vice president and program manager, Triton programs, said the bolstered platform would “completely revolutionise” maritime patrol and reconnaissance capability of customers — the US Navy and Royal Australian Air Force.
The US Navy is currently operating two Tritons in the Pacific as part of an early operational capability deployment, with the program expected to achieve initial operational capability (IOC) in 2023.
The Navy has committed to maintaining five 24/7 operational orbits with a planned 68-aircraft program of record.
Meanwhile, Australia is expected to receive the first of six to seven Triton air vehicles in 2023, with Northrop Grumman expected to begin building the airframe later this year.
Remotely flying out of RAAF Edinburgh, South Australia, the Tritons are capable of monitoring 5.2 million square kilometres in a 24-hour mission and seamlessly flying a round trip for sustained surveillance and in support of allied freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea from the Northern Territory.
“The Multi-INT capability that the US Navy and Royal Australian Air Force have procured [allow] our forces to hold adversaries at risk and protect the peace which is so vital to our national interest,” Captain Dan Mackin, persistent maritime unmanned aircraft systems program manager, added.