The US Navy and Northrop Grumman have started flight testing the new MQ-4C Triton UAV in earnest.
The aircraft is expected to fly its fourth flight on 14 August, says Capt Jim Hoke, Naval Air Systems Command program manager for the aircraft. The flight is expected to last 11h and clear some 250 test points. It will also require multiple crew changes.
Software development is proceeding well, says Hoke and the Triton's powerful 360e_SDgr active electronically scanned array radar has flown 25 flights onboard a Gulfstream business jet. It will later fly on a Triton.
If everything goes as planned, the Pentagon will make a production decision in the second quarter of 2015, Hoke says. The MQ-4C is expected to become operational in 2017.
The USN will not be the only military force to fly the Triton. Australia recently signed a foreign military sales plan with USN on the program.