How the U.S. Navy Plans to Win the Next Big War at Sea
The Navy and Northrop Grumman are updating software and sensors on a new high-tech, autonomous maritime drone designed to identify and zero in on enemy ship targets at sea, service and industry officials said.
The Navy's Triton autonomous drone, called the MQ-4C, is now receiving a "3.1 software" integration as part of a technical plan for the aircraft to be operational by 2018. The first Tritons are slated to deliver sometime later this year, developers said.
The Triton is designed to bring endurance, altitude, range and persistent stare ability over a wide, expansive area; it can stay on missions for over 24 hours at altitudes greater than 50,000 feet, Navy developers explained.
The Navy has also announced that next generation aircraft avoidance systems are being installed on the Triton.
Last year, Northrop Grumman received a $9.6 contract to install the Automatic Response Module of the Airborne Collision Avoidance System X into the MQ-4C Triton’s avionics system.
The company will test and support the software and ensure the proper functioning of the unmanned aircraft.
The Airborne Collision Avoidance System X charts flight patterns that permit closer navigation to other aircraft while maintaining safety protocols. According to the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, the advanced tracking algorithms employ “probabilistic models to represent various sources of uncertainty (e.g., pilot nonresponse, surveillance errors, etc.) and computer optimization to consider safety and operational objectives as defined by system experts and operational users.”
Equipped with signals intelligence, C4ISR, and maritime strike capabilities, the Triton represents the Navy’s future in unmanned aircraft technology. It will also complement the P-8 Poseidon. Together, the two aircraft replace the aging P-3C Orion.
Specs include a full day’s worth of flight, an altitude limit over 10 miles, and an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles. The Navy’s program of record states that the service will field 68 aircraft.
First Triton Squadron Stationed in Guam:
The Triton UAS is an intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance drone with specially configured maritime sensors and radar systems. The 45 foot-long, 32,000-pound aircraft has a wingspan of 131 feet.