Technical issues have forced the Navy to push back limited production of its planned high endurance unmanned aerial vehicle for maritime surveillance by at least a year.
In rolling out its budget proposal for fiscal 2014 this week, the Navy said it needed to delay the low-rate initial-production (LRIP) phase and instead continue with the development and testing of the MQ-4 Triton program.
The Triton is a variant of the Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk and is being adapted for operating in a maritime environment and with a different sensor suite. Northrop Grumman [NOC] is the prime contractor for both aircraft.
Rear Adm. Joseph Mulloy, the Navy’s deputy assistant secretary for the budget, told reporters that the Tritons are experiencing technical issues in development of the V-shaped double tail, known as a "ruddervator."
“To get through that complex V-tail is taking a little longer [than planned],” Mulloy said.
Mulloy said there have also been complications in the integration of the mission computer and software for the Triton, which is being designed to interact with the manned P-8A Poseidon. The Navy is currently procuring the Poseidons for maritime patrol to replace the aging fleet of P-3C Orions.
The Navy added $200 million to the research and development account for Triton in 2014 and subtracted about $425 million that would have gone toward the production, Mulloy said. The Navy now plans to spend $375 million on R&D in 2014 and $52 million on production, according to the budget documents.
The Navy has built or is in the process of building five Tritons with Northrop Grumman under the systems development and demonstration (SDD) phase. The Navy developed Triton under what was known as the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) program, and that included the acquisition of five Global Hawks from the Air Force that became BAMS-Demonstrators.
The Navy plans to build a total of 68 Tritons.