US Navy orders additional MQ-4C Tritons

The US Navy will acquire an additional two MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Northrop Grumman.

The production and delivery of the new Tritons comes as part of a US$172.4m contract modification – awarded on February 6 – to a previously awarded fixed-price incentive firm target (FPIF) contract.

MQ-4C [US Navy/Chad Slattery] #1
A pair of MQ-4Cs on the tarmac at Northrop Grumman's test facility in Palmdale, California in 2013. US Navy/Chad Slattery

Work on the aircraft will be performed across various locations and facilities within the continental US, with just over 98% of production being conducted domestically. The delivery of the new MQ-4Cs is expected to be completed in January 2024, with Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) – based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Maryland, contracting the acquisition.

This contract modification covers Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 5, which itself follows closely behind LRIP Lot 4 – awarded by the US Navy last December.

The US Navy currently operates six MQ-4C Tritons – three under Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 20 (VX-20) ‘Force’ at NAS Patuxent River and the other three are employed by Unmanned Patrol Squadron 19 (VUP-19) ‘Big Red’ from NAS Jacksonville, Florida. The first MQ-4C entered service in November 2017.