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Fourth Triton UAS delivery for US Navy sees completion of first operational orbit

23rd June 2023 - 13:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team in London


Delivery of the fourth Triton to the navy completes the aircraft's first operational orbit. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

Delivery of the fourth aircraft to Unmanned Patrol Squadron 19 completes the first of three planned operational orbits to provide worldwide maritime surveillance.

Northrop Grumman has delivered the fourth multi-intelligence MQ-4C Triton to the USN ahead of initial operational capability (IOC) this year.

This delivery completes the set of aircraft for Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19’s establishment of the first operational orbit, while a second orbit is preparing for delivery in the summer. With three orbits planned around the world, the Triton will provide 24/7 maritime awareness.

In its multi-intelligence configuration, IFC-4, the MQ-4C features a 360-degree AESA maritime radar, full-motion EO/IR video streaming, and an upgraded ZLA-1(v2) ELINT sensor and new SIGINT sensor based on those used on the crewed Lockheed Martin EP-3E.

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Shephard Defence Insight notes that following procurement of 14 MQ-4Cs before 2021, Naval Air Systems Command awarded Northrop Grumman a $98.9 million contract modification for one additional Lot Five MQ-4C. This avoided a two-year production gap from FY2021 to 2023 that had been foreshadowed by the USN's FY2021 Budget estimate.

However, the USN's FY 2022 Budget estimate stated that a one-year production gap would still occur in FY2022 before the resumption of production in FY2023.

On 22 June 2022, the DoD announced that Northrop had been awarded a $248.23 million contract modification for two additional low-rate initial production (LRIP) Lot 5 MQ-4Cs. Therefore, 17 units have been contracted to date for $3.172 billion.

Defence Insight believes that these 17 contracted MQ-4Cs are, according to the 2022 Director, Operational Test & Evaluation ) Strategy document, designed to deliver SIGINT capability sufficient to cover the role of the retiring EP-3E Aries II aircraft.

The USN's FY2022 & FY2023 Budget estimate does not provide any post-FY2022 details for the programme. However, to meet its target of 65 units, the USN needs to procure an additional 37 units for $6.448 billion.

Based on the USN's FY2022 budget request, MQ-4C's flyaway unit cost is $141.80 million.

The Shephard News Team


The Shephard News Team

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