Northrop Grumman has completed more than 25 flight tests of the U.S. Navy Triton unmanned aircraft system’s primary maritime surveillance sensor in preparation for its installation on the aircraft.
The company is conducting risk-reduction tests of the Multi-Function Active Sensor using a Gulfstream II surrogate aircraft off the California coast. The radar will provide the Triton UAS with a 360-degree view of ocean and coastal regions.
“Surrogate flights have allowed us to mature the MFAS radar’s capabilities and merge the data with information received from other sensors and equipment that will also be used on Triton,” said Mike Mackey, Triton UAS program director with Northrop Grumman. “By gathering this information in real and simulated environments, we can refine how an operator sees data while tasking the system in flight.”
The MFAS, an active, electronically and mechanically scanned array radar, is designed for maritime surveillance missions. It uses a combination of electronic scanning with a mechanical rotation, allowing the radar to spotlight a geographic area of interest for longer periods – increasing detection capabilities for smaller targets, particularly in sea clutter.
Triton’s full sensor suite will allow areas up to 2,000 nautical miles to be monitored at a time.
As prime contractor for the Navy on the Triton UAS program, Northrop Grumman is developing the system’s capabilities through 2016. The Navy’s program calls for 68 aircraft to be built.
Mackey said that recent successes have demonstrated how Triton will use the MFAS radar to spot and classify the ships it picks up. The MFAS radar data along with other onboard information will be provided to mission operators on the ground and directly to maritime forces.
“These development tests will demonstrate the range, resolution and speed at which MFAS can detect different targets. We will be well prepared to install MFAS on Triton once surrogate flight tests conclude,” said Mackey.
On May 22, the Triton UAS flew for the first time from Northrop Grumman’s manufacturing center in Palmdale, Calif.
The Triton UAS will replace the Navy’s aging patrol aircraft and is intended to work with the new P-8 Poseidon manned surveillance aircraft.