The Triton arrived at Naval Air Station Patuxent River Sept. 18, according to a Navy press release.
The flight marked the transition from initial flight test, which established basic safety of flight, to testing that will demonstrate Triton’s capability to perform operational missions in the maritime domain.
“Today we brought Triton home to the center of research, development, test and evaluation for naval aviation,” said Rear Adm. Mat Winter, who oversees the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons (PEO (U&W)) at NAVAIR, in a release. “The testing performed here over the next few years is critical to delivering a capability that will provide our warfighter an unparalleled awareness of the maritime environment in locations across the globe.”
During the approximately 11-hour 3,290 nautical mile flight originating from Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, Calif., facility, the Triton flew along the southern U.S. border, the Gulf of Mexico and across Florida via an approved instrument route. Operators navigated the aircraft up the Atlantic Coast and Chesapeake Bay at altitudes in excess of 50,000 feet to ensure there were no conflicts with civilian air traffic.
… Three Triton test vehicles will fly approximately 2,000 hours before achieving initial operational capability in 2017.
“The coordination to bring the Navy’s largest unmanned asset across the country was significant and involved many organizations,” said Capt. Jim Hoke, PMA-262’s program manager. “This phenomenal team executed the system’s longest flight to date exactly as planned.”