Navy officials indicated Northrop Grumman will begin to roll out an unmanned maritime surveillance aircraft to the public in June, Flight Global reports.
Capt. Jim Hoke, Naval Air Systems Command’s program manager for broad area maritime surveillance unmanned maritime surveillance jet, said the Navy plans to have the Northrop-built MQ-4C in flight by early fall.
Hoke said the test aircraft is about to enter ground testing and he expects the Navy can begin flying the aircraft in September.
Northrop plans to formally launch its aircraft June 14.
The Navy’s BAMS is expected to have four aircraft in orbit by December 2015 and Hokes said the branch hopes to eventually have a five-orbit fleet, the report notes.
Hoke expects it will take 68 aircraft to sustain that force over the program’s lifespan as a result of attrition and depot maintenance.
He said the Navy does not need a test aircraft, since crews can train with simulators.
Hoke said BAMS will be used as a communications relay and will eventually take over part of the Lockheed Martin-built EP-3 Aries’ mission, most likely the signal intelligence portion.
Capt. Aaron Rondeau, program manager for the Boeing P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, said future Neptune crews could take partial control of the BAMS aircraft during missions, following P-8 upgrades.
The Navy issued a request for information Friday looking for industry information on possible strike fighter aircraft to replace parts of the Naval Air Systems Command fleet.