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Northrop Grumman MQ-4C BAMS Triton


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Northrop Grumman Unveils U.S. Navy's First MQ-4C BAMS Unmanned Aircraft

 

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Northrop unveils first MQ-4C Triton for US Navy

 

Northrop Grumman has unveiled the first production MQ-4C Triton, a derivative of the unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk optimised for the US Navy, at the company's Palmdale, California manufacturing facility.

The aircraft, formally dubbed 'Triton' after long being known as the broad area maritime surveillance (BAMS) aircraft, is one of two test articles produced in advance of a projected order for 68. The second example is roughly one month from rollout, says Northrop.

The MQ-4C is tasked with partial replacement of the venerable Lockheed P-3 Orion for maritime patrol, along with the Boeing P-8, a 737 airliner derivative. Five retired RQ-4 Block 10s retired from US Air Force service were given to the Navy and converted into demonstrators, called BAMS-D. The demonstrators were used both in test and operational situations.

 

 

Northrop Grumman unveils the new gigantic MQ-4C BAMS Triton drone

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La sorovglianza prevede un lavoro di squadra tra il P-8 Poseidon MMA, e il MQ-4C BAMS 'Triton' source

 

The BAMS UAV would eventually be formally designated MQ-4C Triton as a multi-mission aircraft, even though all of those missions are ISR/reconnaissance missions.

BAMS will work with the P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft on missions will include maritime surveillance, collection of enemy order of battle information, battle damage assessment, port surveillance, communication relay; plus support for maritime interdiction, surface warfare, battlespace management, and targeting for maritime and strike missions. The name fits. In mythology, Triton was Poseidon’s son, and the messenger of the sea.

The BAMS UAV’s required capabilities definitely placed it at the high end of today’s UAV spectrum. BAMS must be capable of a completely pre-programmed mission track, communication plan, and sensor employment plan, with manual override possible to support real-time control and/or re-tasking. The baseline requirement for operation with the P-8A is currently Level II control (receipt of sensor data to/from), with a proposal to quickly increase to Level IV (full control except landings) in the P-8A’s first improvement cycle. The BAMS UAV will have the ability to land on its own if necessary, however, using pre-surveyed and pre-programmed air fields. The EP-3 Aries II “EP-X” replacement is also envisioned as having Level IV BAMS control capabilities, but will not enter service until after P-8A spiral 1.

Many of these capabilities are already present in existing medium UAVs. The requirements that follow are not.

BAMS had to have a minimum mission radius of 3,000 nautical miles, with a 10 hour time to on-station at 2,000 nm mission radius and autonomous flight through moderate icing or turbulence. More to the point, the requirements were expressly crafted for persistence. They included an 80% Estimated Time On Station (ETOS) for a group of BAMS platforms, over a period of 1 week (168 hours). That means UAVs in the air, within their assigned patrol zones at an estimated 900 nm distance from launch, for 134 hours out of 168. That’s the minimum – the goal is 95% ETOS, or almost 160/168 hours.

The Navy saw BAMS UAVs employed within 5 “orbits” around the globe, with no more than 3 UAVs operating at the same time within each orbit. While this may make BAMS seem like a tiny program, consider the fact that all aircraft have fatigue lifespans measured in flight hours. Many fighters have lifespans of 10,000-12,000 hours. Transport aircraft can reach 30,000-40,000 hours, with major rebuilds along the way. Now consider the number of UAVs required to support flight profiles within those orbits, which are estimated to sum to 43,800 on-station flight hours/year, plus flight times to and from station for each mission. Over an expected program operational lifetime of about 20 years.

 

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U.S. Navy Starts Run-Up To First MQ-4C Flight

 

preparations continue for first flight of the initial MQ-4C by the end of 2012, says Northrop Grumman. For the Navy, flight testing and build-up to initial operational capability in 2015 cannot come soon enough. “This capability has never been needed more as we rebalance toward the Pacific,” says Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mark Ferguson. Describing the UAS as a force multiplier, Ferguson says, “BAMS will provide an asymmetric advantage to the U.S. Navy. Long-range persistent surveillance transforms the nature of warfare at sea.”
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U.S. Navy, Northrop Grumman Conducting Triton Ground Testing

 

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) and the U.S. Navy have added a second Triton unmanned aircraft to ground testing efforts in late September – part of an initial step in preparation for flight operations.

Two Triton unmanned aircraft systems are being used to flight test and mature the system for operational use. Ground testing allows the team to further reduce risks associated with control software and subsystems prior to flight.

The first Triton entered ground testing in July after production concluded in June.

"Ground testing signifies our steady progress toward conducting Triton's first flight," said Steve Enewold, Northrop Grumman's vice president and program manager for Triton. "Through numerous engine runs and checks with communications systems between the aircraft and ground controllers, we can ensure that everything is working properly before entering taxi testing as the next step in our efforts."

Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor to the Navy's MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime Surveillance program. In 2008, the company was awarded a systems development and demonstration contract to build two aircraft and test them in preparation for operational missions by late 2015.

The Navy's program of record calls for 68 Tritons to be built.

Triton provides a detailed picture of surface vessels to identify threats across vast areas of ocean and littoral areas. With its ability to fly missions up to 24 hours, Triton complements many manned surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

 

Brochure MQ-4C Triton

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How a Large U.S. Navy UAV Crashed in Maryland, From 18,000 Feet http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130107/C4ISR02/301070006/How-Large-U-S-Navy-UAV-Crashed-Maryland-From-18-000-Feet?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

 

 

On June 11, a massive Navy surveillance drone plummeted into swampland on an island in the Chesapeake Bay on Maryland’s eastern shore. The unmanned aircraft had a 45-foot fuselage — as long as a luxury motor coach — and a wingspan of more than 100 feet.

The closest populated area to the crash site is several miles away and no one was injured, though the disaster attracted news helicopters from local TV stations that videotaped the burning wreckage.

The Navy investigation into the catastrophic failure was completed this summer, according to records obtained by C4ISR Journal through a Freedom of Information Act request. The probe showed that the unmanned plane was filled with almost 6 tons of fuel shortly before takeoff and had only been briefly airborne. After intermittent trouble, it lost control at about 18,000 feet and pilots at computer terminals at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., could no longer direct the aircraft as it plunged toward the ground.

Though the aircraft — a Broad Area Maritime Surveillance-Demonstrator, or BAMS-D — was the property of the Navy, it was operated by civilian contractors working for Northrop Grumman, the UAV’s manufacturer. The BAMS-D is a maritime version of the Air Force’s RQ-4A Global Hawk.

The cause of the accident was found to be mechanical — a faulty actuator for the UAV’s ruddervator, a combination rudder and elevator, common in V-shaped tails.

But the actions of the Northrop Grumman pilot in command violated emergency procedures, according to the Navy commander overseeing the probe. Failure to follow procedures could have produced “disastrous results,” the commander wrote. Though it was controlled by civilian contractors in Virginia, the aircraft was technically under the command of the Navy’s Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 2 based in Hawaii.

This crash came as the Federal Aviation Administration is under increasing pressure to integrate UAVs into civilian aviation by September 2015, as required by Congress. While drones are a new world for the FAA, the Bloodsworth Island crash is a reminder that the armed forces have extensive experience with unmanned aircraft. In addition to the BAMS-D, there have been several other large UAV crashes in the U.S. — Reapers and Predators — and experts say it would be wise of the FAA to use lessons from those crashes as the agency looks to make rules for civilian drones.

INTERVIEW DELAYS

In the BAMS-D accident, the prominent civilian role in a military operation made for an unusual investigation into the crash. In fact, no military personnel were even interviewed.

“The unique makeup of the BAMS-D program made for some minor difficulties in conducting the investigation,” according to the report.

“In the case of the mishap all of the personnel directly involved were civilian contractors,” the report explains. “This caused delays in conducting interviews while Northrop Grumman determined if they desired to have lawyers present for the interviews. The final [determination] was that it wasn’t necessary as the investigating officer was not a JAG officer.”

The investigation shows that the BAMS-D took off from Patuxent River on what was supposed to be a four-hour mission. The mission brief said it was primarily a “confidence flight,” with a secondary purpose of “crew proficiency.” The co-pilot told the Navy investigators in a statement after the crash that the reason for the flight was “to exercise the equipment and the plane.”

Workers filled the aircraft with almost 12,000 pounds of fuel in the morning.

The aircraft took off at 11:51 a.m., and things soon soured. The pilots, at computers at the naval air station, received notice of a fault in the ruddervator actuator. The actuator is the motor that moves the ruddervator back and forth.

First, the pilots commanded the flight to climb to 60,000 feet. This type of aircraft is “autonomous” and the pilots control it at computer keyboards, rather then with joysticks that simulate cockpit control. Soon, instead of 60,000 feet, the pilots instructed the UAV to get to 25,000 feet altitude.

Then they turned the flight to the east “to avoid overlying populated areas.” They decided to return the flight to the airfield because of the problems.

At 12:02 p.m. the pilot instructed the plane to descend from 25,000 feet to 18,000 feet. The pilots received a “Guidance Control 8 Fault,” from the aircraft, and apparently that’s when the plane went out of control and began “a right-hand spiraling turn.”

A chart in the investigation records shows that at this point, the plane had a pitch of 74 degrees, which means its nose was heading almost directly to the ground.

The co-pilot told the investigating officer that he lost the transmission link to the plane.

“At this point, MCE [mission control element] was not able to effect control on the aircraft,” he said. Meanwhile, he said, the pilot was on a headset “conveying that he had link but no longer could affect control and the plane was in an out-of-control flight regime.”

A field technician told investigators that “I heard the pilot inform ATC [air traffic control] that he had lost control of the aircraft and the aircraft was not responding to his commands.”

At 12:06 p.m., about 15 minutes after takeoff, the BAMS-D sent its last transmission to the ground station just as it was about to impact the wetlands on Bloodsworth Island, at a 55-degree angle.

The cause was found to be mechanical. Northrop Grumman said the problem was an “anomaly” in the power card for the ruddervator actuator, which caused “intermittent failure.”

But the Northrop pilots, according to the report, didn’t completely follow proper procedure.

The investigation found that “the pilots followed the published emergency procedures with the exception of climbing above 40,000” feet. That procedure “allows the pilot the plots to conduct controllability checks.”

The commander of Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 2 wrote that “failure to adhere to emergency protocols did not produce disastrous results in this particular event; however, future breaches of established procedures could produce a different outcome.”

The civilian pilot’s name is redacted in the papers, but the commander recommends that his “contract be thoroughly reviewed and the appropriate remediation be instituted.”

It is unclear how thoroughly the FAA looks at the military’s experience with UAVs as it prepares to integrate unmanned systems into the national airspace.

Sean Cassidy, vice president of the Airline Pilots Association, which is heavily engaged in the issue, said the FAA should be actively reviewing incidents like this one.

“It doesn’t take a genius to surmise what would happen,” he said, “if this was to happen over a densely populated area.”

Cassidy said that in general, DoD has been cooperating with the FAA as it gets ready for its rulemaking. He said UAVs should be certified in the same way manned aircraft are and that pilots should receive equivalent training.

The National Transportation Safety Board has no authority to investigate military aircraft crashes, but an NTSB spokesman said the Navy had shared “safety information that is privileged” about the incident.

“They shared information that we can use for safety purposes,” the spokesman said, “but not release.”

Lt. Aaron Kakiel of Naval Air Forces command said that on top of this investigation, a separate safety investigation was completed. He says the fleet was inspected after the accident, “to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

In an email, a Northrop Grumman spokesman said the company “fully supported the U.S. Navy’s investigation into the BAMS-D incident and we’ve helped implement corrective actions identified in the report.”

 

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Le future basi del Triton http://www.militaryaerospace.com/articles/2013/08/bams-control-complex.html

 

Several of the future MQ-4C BAMS unmanned aircraft also will be based at Jacksonville NAS when the new UAVs enter service in 2015. Other MQ-4C UAVs will be based at Point Mugu NAS, Calif.; Kadena Air Base, Japan; Andersen Air Force Base, Guam; Sigonella NAS, Italy, as well as at installations on Hawaii and Diego Garcia.

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