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The Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) under development for the United States Navy as asurveillance aircraft. 

In tandem with its associated ground control station, it is considered an unmanned aircraft system (UAS). 

Developed under the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) program, the system is intended to provide continuous maritime surveillance for the U.S. Navy, and to complement the Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

The MQ-4C System Development and Demonstration (SDD) aircraft was delivered in 2.012 and the MQ-4C UAS was originally expected to be operational by late 2.015 with a total of 68 aircraft to be procured. 

However, in April 2013, the Navy announced that production has shifted from FY14 to FY15 due to additional testing requirements and technical issues related to the aircraft's double-tail vertical stabilizer and rudder, and software integration for maritime sensors.

According to the latest information available from the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the MQ-4C UAS is now planned for 2.017.

The Triton , the new drone , with a gigantic scale similar to the Boeing 757 developed to increase the chances of the U.S. Navy in the field of aerial surveillance , could enter service in 2.017.

The corporation aerospace and defense companies Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy ninth reported successful test flight of Triton , the unmanned aerial system they (UAS , for its acronym in English ) that overcame the technical qualities of its predecessor in the Air Force , the ' drone ' Global Hawk.

Equipped with a wingspan of nearly 40 meters longer than the Boeing 757,the Triton will be able to perform tasks in real-time intelligence , surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR , for its acronym in English ) by a set of sensors provides a 360 degree view in a radius of more than 3,700 kilometers, which is a significant improvement of air surveillance , much higher than any of its competitors.

At the same time , their only protection against ice and lightning allows the Triton plunge through the clouds to get a closer view and automatically classify enemy ships. 

Moreover, during the last test , the ' drone ' proved able to recover easily from shocks in its flight path caused by turbulence .

The field operators can obtain the high resolution image recording apparatus using the radar to detect targets and exchange information with other military units .

So far, the Triton has completed flights up to 9.4 hours at an altitude of over 15,000 feet in the manufacturer's premises in California ( USA). 

According to Northrop Grumman, the Triton mission could address up to 24 hours.

The manufacturer said previously that Triton had demonstrated the structural strength of wings a key capability that will allow the aircraft to descend from high altitudes to make a positive identification of targets for surveillance missions,even when subjected to a load exceeded by 22% the requirements of the U.S. Navy.

Under the initial contract signed in 2008 , the U.S. Navy ordered 68 drone MQ- 4C Triton , whose delivery is scheduled for 2.017.

Operational history

Flight testing

The MQ-4C Triton performed its first flight on 22 May 2.013 from United States Air Force Plant 42 / Palmdale Regional Airport, California. 

The flight lasted 1 hour 20 minutes and the aircraft reached an altitude of 20,000 ft.

On 6 January 2.014, Northrop Grumman announced that the MQ-4C had completed 9 test flights with 46 hours of flight time. 

Half of its envelope expansion testing, which includes evaluating the aircraft at different altitudes, speeds, and weights, has been completed. 

Some flights lasted over 9 hours and reached 50,000 ft. A second Triton aircraft will fly by March or April 2014.

Fleet operational evaluation and introduction

On February 7, 2.013, the U.S. Navy announced that it would stand up Unmanned Patrol Squadron Nineteen (VUP-19) at NAS Jacksonville, Florida on October 1, 2.013, to eventually operate the MQ-4C as the Navy's first Triton squadron.[

A detachment of VUP-19 will also be established at NAS Point Mugu, California. 

VUP-19 will fall under the administrative control of Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing ELEVEN (CPRW-11) at NAS Jacksonville, where an MQ-4C mission control facility is also under construction, and will initially operate the Triton on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions for the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Southwest Asia/Middle East/East Africa region, the U.S. 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic, theU.S. 7th Fleet in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean, and U.S. Fleet Forces Command in western Atlantic operations. 

In 2.014, the Navy will activate a second Triton squadron, VUP-11, to take over operations in the Pacific in support of U.S. 7th Fleet and share U.S. 5th Fleet operations with VUP-19.

Specificiations

General characteristics

· Crew: Aircraft is unmanned; 4 personnel required per ground station
· Length: 47.6 ft in (14.5 m)
· Wingspan: 130.9 ft in (39.9 m)
· Height: 15.3 ft in (4.7 m)
· Gross weight: 32,250 lb (14,628.4 kg)
· Powerplant: 1 × Rolls-Royce AE 3007 turbofan, 6,495-8,917 lbf (28.9-39.7 kN)

Performance

· Maximum speed: 357 mph (575 km/h)
· Endurance: 30 hours
· Service ceiling: 60,000 ft (18,288 m)

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