Northrop Grumman has completed the first flight of Australia’s MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicle at its Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center in California.
The initial flight conducted airworthiness assessments, covering engine, flight control and fuel system checks, and basic aircraft handling tests, the company said.
According to Northrop, the flight test confirmed that the UAV is ready for delivery to Australia in 2024.
The confirmation follows the U.S. Navy’s declaration in August that the uncrewed aerial system achieved initial operating capability.
Christine Zeitz, chief executive and general manager for Australia and New Zealand at Northrop Grumman, said the Triton will enable Australia to conduct round-the-clock monitoring and protection of its maritime interests. The aircraft will advance the country’s objective of gaining a long-range maritime surveillance capability, she added.
Designed and built for the U.S. Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force, Triton is a high-altitude and long-endurance aircraft that can perform persistent maritime intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting missions.
During the program’s development phase, Australia contributed to finalizing the UAV’s system requirements, Northrop said, adding that the partner countries will continue to share data collected by the MQ-4C.
Australia initially planned to establish a fleet of seven UAVs but Jake Campbell, director of the Triton program at Northrop Grumman Australia, disclosed that, for now, four units will be shipped starting next year.