18 Sep 14. The first U.S. Navy MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has completed a flight from California to Maryland. The UAS flew 11 hours from the Northrop Grumman Corporation facility in Palmdale to Naval Air Station Patuxent River to start its next phase of testing, moving the program closer toward operational assessment. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the Navy’s MQ-4C Triton UAS program. At Naval Air Station Patuxent River, the aircraft will be outfitted with a sensor suite, before going through a series of sensor integration flights. One of Triton’s primary sensors, the AN/ZPY-3 multifunction active sensor radar, will provide an unprecedented 360-degree field of regard for detecting and identifying ships. “Now that the aircraft has arrived, we are ready to conduct the next phase of the test program,” said Capt. James Hoke, Triton program manager, Naval Air Systems Command. “Triton is one of the Navy’s most significant investments in unmanned aircraft systems to date and we look forward to evaluating its capabilities.” In preparation for the cross-country flight, a Navy/Northrop Grumman team completed numerous systems tests on Triton. During the flight, the joint team controlled the aircraft from a ground station in Palmdale, which served as the forward operating base, and a Navy System Integration Lab at Patuxent River, which served as the main operating base. The aircraft traveled along the same flight path that was used to transfer the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Demonstrator from Palmdale to Patuxent River several years ago. “Triton is the Navy’s largest, most advanced unmanned maritime surveillance system to cross such a distance,” said Mike Mackey, Triton UAS program director, Northrop Grumman. “The successful flight was the result of a Navy/Northrop Grumman team effort, from finishing a major software package to managing equipment inspections.” Over the next few weeks, two other Tritons, one of which is a demonstration aircraft owned by Northrop Grumman, will also fly to Patuxent River. Both will be used during system development and demonstration tests. Triton is specifically designed for maritime missions of up to 24 hours. It can fly at altitudes higher than 10 miles, allowing for coverage of 1 million square nautical miles of ocean, in a single mission.
14 Sep 14. Japan Is Building a “UUV.” Will Fuel Cell-Powered Robotic Submarines Soon Swim American Seas? Last month, in a little noticed development, Japanese daily newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Japan will soon team up with the United States to develop a new class of unmanned underwater vehicle. (Japan’s Defense Ministry denies the report, but the country recently gave its military expanded powers to cooperate with allied nations on defense matters — and promised to spend nearly a quarter-trillion dollars on new equipment for its military — so you have to wonder.)
While the actual participants in the new UUV might be uncertain, here’s what we know about it:
* It’s small. Reportedly, the new submarine will be a mere 33 feet in length.
* It’s robotic. Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the vessel will be able to follow a “pre-programmed course.”
* It’s “green.” Powered by neither radioactive nuclear fuel nor dirty diesel, the robo-sub will operate on electricity generated by fuel cells.
* It’s independent. The sub will be able to travel away from a mother ship under its own power, swimming underwater for perhaps for as long as a month at a time before returning to base.
* It’s unarmed. Initial versions of the sub, at least, will be equipped with sonar that can help the boat identify threats while on patrol — but no torpedoes to shoot.
* It’s cheap. Early stage development of the sub is supposed to cost Japan’s Defense Ministry no more than $25m over the next five years. The size of the U.S. contribution is not yet known.
While not as high profile as their high-flying UAV cousins, UUVs are catching on in the United