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Officials from the United States Naval Air Systems Command are asking maritime aviation surveillance experts at Northrop Grumman to build three MQ-4C Triton UAVs. The long range patrol UAVs will be built under the terms of a $251.6 million contract.

As part of the contract, the company will deliver the three UAVs, as well as their ground stations, tools, and support equipment.

The MQ-4C Triton, also known as the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV, has been designed to fly maritime surveillance missions at altitude above 50,000 feet for up to 24 hours a flight. The UAV utilizes sensors that make it possible to detect and even classify different types of ships spread out over 2,000 nautical miles automatically.

The UAV will be a critical part of the United States Navy’s strategy for conducting maritime surveillance above the oceans of the world.

The Triton hosts a maritime search radar called the Multi Function Active Sensor (MFAS). The radar provides the UAV with a 360 degree view of a large area while covering, detecting, classifying, tracking, and identifying certain points of interest.

Along with the MFAS, Tritons also have air to air radars, as well as electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors that can provide the operators with full motion video of the environment.

The Triton is capable of flying as far as 8,200 nautical miles without refueling, according to Militaryaerospace.com. Its Rolls Royce jet engine allows the aircraft to stay in the air for up to 24 hours and reach speeds as fast as 320 knots. The UAV has a maximum take off weight of 32,250 pounds and is capable of carrying up to 17,300 pounds of fuel, sensors, and payloads.

The Triton is operated by a ground crew of four people, an air vehicle operator, a tactical coordinator, and two payload operators. 

The first Triton UAVs began development in 2008 by Northrop Grumman as part of a $1.2 billion contract.

Northrop Grumman is expecting to deliver the three Triton UAVs by February 2023.