MQ-4C Triton is a new broad area maritime surveillance (BAMS) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) unveiled by Northrop Grumman for the US Navy. The UAS will complement the navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force family of systems, delivering SIGNET (signals intelligence), C4ISR and maritime strike capabilities.
The MQ-4C Triton programme is managed by the Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems Programme Office (PMA-262).
Details of the BAMS UAS programme
The BAMS UAS was acquired under a US Department of Defence (DoD) Acquisition Category (ACAT) 1D programme and Northrop Grumman was awarded a $1.16bn contract for the MQ-4C BAMS programme in April 2008. The programme saw the completion of preliminary design review in February 2010 and critical design review in February 2011.
The first of the three fuselages of MQ-4C was completed in March 2011 and the ground station testing of multifunction active sensor (MFAS) radar was completed in November 2011.
The flight testing of MFAS on the Gulfstream II testbed aircraft began in February 2012. The first MQ-4C Triton was unveiled in June 2012, while the maiden flight for the UAS was conducted in May 2013.
The MQ-4C completed its ninth trial flight in January 2014 and operational assessment (OA) in February 2016. The US Navy intends to procure 68 MQ-4C Triton UAS to carry out surveillance missions, along with the manned P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.
Navy gets first new Triton drone for ocean surveillance: Here
The Navy received its first operational MQ-4C Triton drone when the high altitude, long endurance unmanned aircraft landed at a Navy facility at Point Mugu, contractor Northrop Grumman announced Nov. 10.
The company said it expects to deliver a second Triton later this year.
Early next year, the Tritons will fly to Guam where the Navy is expected to make them officially operational, Thomas Twomey, senior manager of business development at Northrop Grumman, told C4ISRNET in April. The MQ-4C can fly for as long as 24 hours and at an altitude as high as 55,000 feet.
A small skeleton crew will perform launch and recovery tasks and then a larger group will fly the Triton remotely from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, he added.
MQ-4C Triton design features
The MQ-4C Triton is based on the RQ-4N, a maritime variant of the RQ-4B Global Hawk. The main aluminium fuselage is of semi-monocoque construction, while the V-tail, engine nacelle and aft fuselage are made of composite materials.
New sensor payload capability available for Global Hawk: Here
A Northrop Grumman solution to enable the use of legacy and future sensor systems on its RQ-4 Global Hawk drone has been successfully demonstrated.
The test involved the use of a legacy SYERS-2 intelligence gathering sensor attached to the high-altitude, long-endurance drone through the use of the company’s innovative Universal Payload Adapter, a bracket mounted onto a Global Hawk airframe to support a wide variety of payloads.
With the success of the SYERS-2 flight, Northrop Grumman now plans to fly an Optical Bar Camera sensor and an MS-177 multi-spectral sensor later on the RQ-4 later this year.
The forward fuselage is strengthened for housing sensors and the radomes are provided with lightning protection, and hail and bird-strike resistance.
The UAS has a length of 14.5m, height of 4.7m and a wingspan of 39.9m. It can hold a maximum internal payload of 1,452kg and external payload of 1,089kg.
Mission capabilities of MQ-4C Triton BAMS UAS
• Provides persistent maritime ISR at a mission radius of 2,000 nm; 24 hours/7 days per week with 80% Effective Time on Station (ETOS)
• Land-based air vehicle and sensor command and control
• Afloat Level II payload sensor data via line-of-sight
• Dual redundant flight controls and surfaces
• 51,000-hour airframe life
• Due regard radar for safe separation
• Anti/de-ice, bird strike, and lightning protection
• Communications bandwidth management
• Commercial off-the-shelf open architecture mission control system
• Net-ready interoperability solution
The MQ-4C is a high-altitude, long-endurance UAS, suitable for conducting continuous sustained operations over an area of interest at long ranges. It relays maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information directly to the maritime commander.
The UAS can be deployed in a range of missions such as maritime surveillance, battle damage assessment, port surveillance and communication relay. It will also support other units of naval aviation to conduct maritime interdiction, anti-surface warfare (ASuW), battle-space management and targeting missions.
The MQ-4C is capable of providing persistent maritime surveillance and reconnaissance coverage of wide oceanographic and littoral zones at a mission radius of 2,000 nautical miles. The UAS can fly 24 hours a day, seven days a week with 80% effective time on station (ETOS).
Payloads of Northrop’s unmanned system
The payload is composed 360° field of regard (FOR) sensors including multifunction active sensor (MFAS) electronically steered array radar, electro-optical / infrared (EO/IR) sensor, automatic identification system (AIS) receiver and electronic support measures (ESM). The payload also includes communications relay equipment and Link-16.
AN/ZPY-3 Multi-Function Active Sensor (MFAS)
The AN/ZPY-3 MFAS is a 360-degree field-of-regard active electronically scanned array radar designed for maritime surveillance. The X-Band two-dimensional sensor features a combination of electronic scanning and a mechanical rotation, allowing the radar to spotlight a geographic area of interest for longer periods to increase detection capabilities of smaller targets, particularly in sea clutter.
The AN/ZPY-3 MFAS sensor is the first radar system to provide full 360-degree persistent coverage of both open oceans and littoral regions from extremely long ranges.
The AN/ZPY-3 MFAS sensor operates with a rotating sensor that incorporates electronic scanning and provides mode agility to switch between various surveillance methods. These include maritime-surface-search (MSS) mode for tracking maritime targets and inverse-synthetic-aperture radar (ISAR) mode for classifying ships.
Image-while-scan capability is used to interleave very short duration ISAR functions (ISAR snapshot and high- range resolution) during MSS scans. Two synthetic aperture radar (SAR) modes are used for ground searches; spot SAR for images of the ground and stationary targets and strip SAR for images along a fixed line. Source northropgrumman.com
|Type: Radar||Altitude Max: 0 m|
|Range Max: 370.4 km||Altitude Min: 0 m|
|Range Min: 0.2 km||Generation: Late 2010s|
|Properties: Periscope/Surface Search – Advanced Processing [2000+], Moving Target Indicator (MTI), Pulse-only Radar, Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA)|
|Sensors / EW:|
|AN/ZPY-3 MFAS AESA – (MQ-4C) Radar
Role: Radar, Surface Search, Long-Range
Max Range: 370.4 km
The MTS-B multispectral targeting system performs auto-target tracking and produces high-resolution imagery at multiple field-of-views and full motion video. The AN/ZLQ-1 ESM uses specific emitter identification (SEI) to track and detect emitters of interest.
MTS-B multispectral targeting system
Multi-spectral targeting system (MTS) “B” AN/DAS-3
Raytheon’s Multi-Spectral Targeting System (MTS) is a turreted electro-optical/ infrared (EO/IR) sensor used in maritime and overland intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
It provides EO/IR, laser designation, and laser illumination capabilities integrated in a single sensor package.
The MTS product family of sensors, includes Compact MTS, MTS-A, MTS-B, MTS-C and MTS-D (AN/DAS-4). Source raytheon.com
|Type: Infrared||Altitude Max: 0 m|
|Range Max: 55.6 km||Altitude Min: 0 m|
|Range Min: 0 km||Generation: Infrared, 3rd Generation Imaging (2000s/2010s, Impr LANTIRN, Litening II/III, ATFLIR)|
|Properties: Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) [Side Info], Classification [Class Info] / Brilliant Weapon [Automatic Target Aquisition], Continous Tracking Capability [Visual], Periscope/Surface Search – Advanced Processing [2000+]|
|Sensors / EW:|
|AN/DAS-3 MTB-S [EO/IR] – (MC-4C, Multi-Spectral Targeting System) Infrared
Role: Infrared, Surveillance FLIR
Max Range: 55.6 km
|Type: ESM||Altitude Max: 0 m|
|Range Max: 926 km||Altitude Min: 0 m|
|Range Min: 0 km||Generation: Late 2000s|
|Sensors / EW:|
|AN/ZLQ-1 – (MQ-4C) ESM
Max Range: 926 km
Engine and performance of the US’s UAS
MQ-4C Triton is powered by a Rolls-Royce AE3007H turbofan engine. It is an advance variant of the AE3007 engine in service with the Citation X and the Embraer Regional Jet. The engine generates a thrust of 8,500lb
The UAS can fly at a maximum altitude of 60,000ft. It has a gross take-off weight of 14,628kg. Its maximum unrefuelled range is 9,950 nautical miles and endurance is 30 hours. The maximum speed is 357mph.
AE 3007H turbofan engine
The AE 3007 turbofan engine is a high bypass, two shaft engine featuring a wide-chord single-stage low pressure (LP) compressor, 14-stage high pressure (HP) compressor followed by an effusion-cooled annular combustor, two stage high pressure (HP) turbine and a three stage low pressure (LP) turbine.
|Thrust lbf (kN)||9,500 (42)|
|Length in (m)||115.08 (2.92)|
|Diameter in (m)||38.5 (0.98)|
|Basic weight lb (Kg)||1,644 (746)|
Engine source rolls-royce.com
Ground control station
The UAS is operated from ground stations manned by a four-man crew, including an air vehicle operator, a mission commander and two sensor operators.
The ground station includes launch and recovery element (LRE) and a mission control element (MCE).
The MCE performs mission planning, launch and recovery, image processing and communications monitoring.
The LRE controls related ground support equipment as well as landing and take-off operations.
NAVAIR Flight Ready: Triton Airspace Integration
Published on Dec 22, 2015
Main material source naval-technology.com