The Navy says that their new drone will be used for sea “surveillance, collection of enemy order of battle information, battle damage assessment, port surveillance, communication relay, and support of the following missions — maritime interdiction, surface warfare, battlespace management and targeting for maritime and littoral strike missions.”
If it looks familiar is because it is based on the RQ-4 Global Hawk. Like its US Air Force sibling, these things are really huge, with a 40m wingspan. They are long-range too: Northrop Grumman claims that it can do “large maritime distances for long periods of time for up to five simultaneous orbits worldwide.”
The only think that puzzles me is that the Navy is getting them just after the USAF announced that they are mothballing all its Global Hawk fleet, citing cost problems and less than optimal results.
Perhaps the difference is that the new Triton comes with the AN/ZPY-3 multi-function active-sensor, a completely new 360 degree radar system that is supposed to be much better than the sensors in the Global Hawk. [US Navy]