Northrop Grumman Corp. and the  Navy have successfully completed the first major milestone of the Triton unmanned aircraft system’s test program, clearing the aircraft to fly at various altitudes, speeds and weights.

A MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system makes its approach for landing March 13 at Palmdale, CA. Photo by Alan Radecki/Northrup Grumman

The test team conducted 13 flights during this effort, including several long-endurance flights totaling 81 hours at altitudes up to 59,950 feet. The flights took place at the company’s manufacturing facility in Palmdale, Calif.

The Navy plans to build 68 Tritons and they will be used with the manned P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to conduct persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions across vast ocean and coastal regions.

Triton carries a variety of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensor payloads that allow military commanders to gather high-resolution imagery, use radar to detect targets, and provide airborne communications and information-sharing capabilities to military units across long distances.

Northrup Grumman employs some 2,000 at its unmanned systems center in Rancho Bernardo.

— From a Northrup Grumman press release

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.