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US Navy looks to extend operational envelope for Triton UAS fleet

30th January 2023 - 17:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team in London


The testing timeline for the Triton in icing conditions will support deployment of the latest multi-intelligence variant of the aircraft. (Photo: USN)

A series of flight trials for the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton high-altitude long-endurance UAS will determine the aircraft's ability to fly in icing conditions.

The US Navy has commenced test fights with an MQ-4C Triton to assess the aircraft's ability to fly with wing ice accumulation.

The first flight trial took place on 25 January at NAS Patuxent River, the first of approximately 15 flights planned through to spring 2023 that will clear Triton to fly in icing conditions.

'Triton’s ability to fly in icing conditions is a top priority for the fleet,' said Capt Josh Guerre, MQ-4C Triton Program Manager. 'The greater ability we have to fly in harsh weather conditions, the more capability we can provide to the fleet.'

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In late 2022, the Triton Integrated Test Team (ITT) applied 3D-printed nylon blocks designed to simulate moderate ice accumulation on the wings and tail. 

'The objective is to verify that there’s sufficient stability and control in order to remove the restrictions in the flight clearance for flying in icing conditions – which could significantly increase the fleet’s sortie rate,” Amanda Marge, MQ-4C Triton lead test engineer, said.

The team will analyse data from the first flight to confirm the aircraft responds as predicted to control inputs and that further testing can proceed.

Triton will fly with simulated ice accumulation on the wings throughout its operational envelope to determine impact on flying qualities and performance. The testing will enable MQ-4C transits through moderate icing later this year. 'This timeline will support deployment of the latest MQ-4C multi-intelligence variant', Guerre said.

According to Shephard Defence Insight the USN has 13 MQ-4Cs in service with a total of 65 on order. Based on the USN's FY2022 budget request, the MQ-4C's flyaway unit cost is $141.8 million.

The Shephard News Team


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