“As we go through the first phase of tests we will go through various altitude and weight profiles to demonstrate stability with these aircraft,” Mackey says. The aircraft’s sophisticated suite of surveillance and communications sensors will be represented in the flight tests initially by dummy weights. “We are in the lab doing integration work right now,” Mackey says, adding that air vehicle integration will be completed over the next “several months.” Sensors, particularly the multifunction active sensor active electronically steered array (MFAS AESA) X-band radar, continue to be shaken down on Northrop’s Gulfstream II surrogate BAMS flying testbed.
The MFAS, the heart of the aircraft’s patrol capability, is designed for maritime detection, tracking and identification of targets using maritime search, inverse synthetic aperture radar (ISAR) and SAR modes. Hoke says that MFAS is being tested first on a surrogate aircraft “to reduce technical risk and mature radar performance before integration on the Triton air vehicle.” Integration of a sophisticated radar on the Air Force Global Hawk Block 40 has drive that program behind schedule.
To assist with target identification, the MQ-4C will also carry the Automatic Identification System, which provides information received from VHF broadcasts on maritime vessel movements around the world. It will also incorporate an AN/ZLQ-1 electronic support measures system, and an ITT Exelis-developed “due regard” nose-mounted radar forward of the large wideband satcom antenna for safe separation from other aircraft.