The U.S. Navy is pushing forward with programs on unmanned aircraft systems such as the Northrop Grumman-built MQ-4C Triton and MQ-8B/C Fire Scout and Boeing Insitu‘s RQ-21A Blackjack, C4ISR & Networks reported Friday.
Erik Schechter writes Naval Air Systems Command has scheduled the Triton for sensor payload testing, onboard sea trials for the Fire Scout variants and low-rate initial production for the Blackjack.
“The next five years are going to be crucial for the Navy, when Triton hits the fleet and Fire Scout starts showing up in numbers,” said Capt. Chris Corgnati, head of airborne ISR at the Office of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance.
The Triton will be based at five international land bases to support Navy manned aircraft in antisubmarine warfare and ship interdiction missions, Schechter reports.
It is currently at the second integrated functionality capability phase and has completed integration of wideband satellite communications capabilities.
According to the report, the basic sensor tests in the spring will focus on the system’s AN/ZPY-3 multifunction active sensor radar, AN/DAS-3 electro-optical/infrared sensor, AN/ZLQ-1 electronic support measures system and automatic identification system.
“Knitting together all these sensors is the work that’s ahead of us now,” said Program Manager Cdr. Sean Burke.
Meanwhile, the MQ-8B Fire Scout was deployed aboard the USS Fort Worth frigate, while the C model was tested aboard the USS Jason Dunham destroyer.
Schechter writes that both have persistent situational awareness and command-and-control functions, but the Navy plans to purchase more of the larger MQ-8C.
Program Manager Capt. Jeff Dodge told C4ISR & Networks that the C variant is currently at the payload testing phase, while an operational test is due later in the year.
As for the Blackjack UAS, the report said NAVAIR has ordered three LRIP units and plans to buy three more for the Navy and another three for the U.S. Marine Corps.
Program Manager Col. Eldon Metzger said the program has completed ship-based initial operational test and evaluation and is considering adding payloads such as signals intelligence and synthetic aperture radars, Schechter reports.