Navy delays Triton UAS development

Development of the U.S. Navy’s maritime variant of the Air Force’s Global Hawk, the Triton UAS Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) , will be delayed, senior Navy officials explained when rolling out the service’s FY 14 budget proposal.

About $25 million was taken from production of the system in the BAMS budget for fiscal year 2014 — and moved to fiscal year 2015 due to schedule changes, service officials said.

“The first year of production of RQ-4 Triton UAV (previously known as BAMS) was shifted from FY14 to FY15 due to schedule changes.  Funding decreased to support transition into the test phase of the System Demonstration and Deployment (SDD) program,” said Lt. Courtney Hillson, a Navy spokeswoman.

While the Triton BAMS UAS is expected to bring great capability to the Navy, it may need a little longer development than initially expected, said Navy Rear. Adm. Joseph Mulloy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Budget.

“There are two technical issues in the airplane that are causing a delay in testing. First off, it has a unique double-tail rudder which is different on the Navy model. To get through that complex detail is taking a little longer on the design modules,” he said.

Secondly, integration work is still being done on the software on board the aircraft’s computer, he added.

“The Naval variant is designed to work with our P-8 and fly over the Pacific with a different set of sensors than the Air Force variant,” Mulloy added.

In short, it is taking a little longer than expected to engineer, develop and integrate the special maritime capabilities designed for the Triton. It is engineered to work in tandem with a manned fixed-wing surveillance aircraft called the P-8A Poseidon.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, expressed great enthusiasm at the Air-Sea-Space Exposition regarding the establishment of the first P-8 Poseidon squadron slated to deploy to the Western Pacific.

The P-8A Poseidon is slated to replace the P-3C Orion as a long range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, according to the Navy.

Nevertheless, the Navy is gearing up for the first test-flight of its Triton UAS, a wide-spanning 47-foot long surveillance unmanned aircraft system equipped with high-tech, next-generation sensors able to conduct surveillance, reconnaissance and communications-relay missions over thousands of miles of ocean, service officials said.

The aircraft, which boasts a 130-foot wingspan and can reach altitudes of 60,000 feet, is engineered as a long-endurance surveillance platform, meaning it can stay in the air as long at 30 hours on a single mission, according to Navy figures.

The Triton’s first planned flight is part of an ongoing System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase, in place since the Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $1.16 billion deal to develop the aircraft in 2008, an industry source indicated.

The Triton’s first planned flight is part of an ongoing System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase, in place since the Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $1.16 billion deal to develop the aircraft in 2008, an industry source indicated.

The 89-month SDD phase, which includes initiatives to develop, test and refine the engineering of the air vehicle and integrate the sensor payload, is an acquisition phase aimed at refining requirements for the system and maturing its technologies prior to formal production, an industry source explained.

“The first MQ-4C Triton SDD aircraft, or SDD-1, will conduct taxi tests later this month at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, Calif. Facility,” said Capt. Jim Hoke, program manager.

Thus far, two MQ-4C Triton’s have been built and a third is under construction at a Northrop facility in Moss Point, Miss., an industry source said.  The Navy plans to build additional aircraft and move toward an Initial Operational Test and Evaluation by 2015, a move which assessed the operational and technological readiness of the system prior to formal production.

The Triton UAS, part of the Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance UAS developmental program, is a specially engineered maritime variant of the Air Force’s very successful RQ-4B Global Hawk platform, Navy officials explained.

“The modifications include anti/de-ice, bird strike and lightning protection to meet planned mission profiles and a due regard radar for safe separation from other aircraft,” Hoke added.

The anti/de-ice and lighting protection technologies, which include a reinforced fuselage and wing, are being engineered into the MC-4Q Triton as part of the maritime requirements for its range of anticipated mission sets, Navy and industry officials said.

“The Navy’s maritime variant is engineered to operate beneath the weather and have the ability to quickly be re-tasked as mission requirements dictate,” a Navy official said.

Since identifying ships, watercraft and coastal items are part of the Triton’s mission set, the aircraft is being engineered to ascend and descend to make identification of targets, an industry source added.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • dubweiser101

    I can’t even remember the last time a weapons system has been on time and on budget… No surprise here.

    • NavairPawn

      Not entirely true. I am inclined to say that the UCAS-D has been fairly successful. Of course, then there is the example of the F-35C tailhook fiasco…..

      • Josh

        You mean the tailhook problem that has been fixed? That one? What about it?

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          Its not that the problem was fixed; its that it ever happened.

        • Disappointed

          It’s a fiasco because the design was not done correctly in the first place with so many other tailhooks out there to leverage from. It’s also a fiasco because its taken them a year to get the fix ready and it’s still not installed/working. You must either work for Lockheed or ITF to be so upset about that comment.

  • USS ENTERPRISE

    Wow. This is sad. I swear when I saw the picture, I thought that last drone article had been repeated. Hmph. A delay. Oh spiffing. Didn’t see that one coming……

  • PolicyWonk

    Anyone know how many of these the Navy intends to buy?

    • Praetorian
    • ubfig

      Contract is for 68 at this time.

  • blight_

    I guess the upgrades for air force global hawks will include a bajillion dollars for anti/deice, bird-strike and lightning protection (apparently unimportant to JSF!) and a due regard radar.

    Wondering what they were talking about when it came to the tail. Might have to do with:

    “the aircraft is being engineered to ascend and descend to make identification of targets”

    Which undoubtedly may cause problems: since Global Hawk was designed for a different mission profile.

  • Professor Ski!!!

    What makes a navy global hawk version so different???

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Well, a bunch. Firstly, its more directed to missions the navy will do. Also, its adapted for forward air bases used by the navy.

    • tiger

      It replies “Aye, Aye sir.” to all questions.. We Paint “Navy” on the side. Seriously, Things to make it maritime friendly.

    • Guest

      Triton aims to be on station 80% of the time as this article states. The Global Hawk Block 30 aimed at 55% and could only achieved 27% when the Office of Test & Evaluation did an assessment. So Triton will be a major improvement.

  • http://www.tradinggoddess.com/2013/02/nice-rally-but-wheres-volume.html Kelly
  • SFP

    Wow. This is sad. I swear when I saw the picture, I thought that last drone article had been repeated. Hmph. A delay. Oh spiffing. Didn’t see that one coming……