Northrop Grumman's UAV Triton takes flight

UAV believed to be game changer for US Navy

SAN DIEGO - At its testing facility in the high desert in Palmdale, Northrop Grumman's Triton took to the air for the first time Wednesday.

"We were a bit anxious but we had literally spent tens of thousands of hours in the lab before hand," said Jim Zortman, the unmanned systems coordinator at the company's Rancho Bernardo location.

A former rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, Zortman said Triton will give ship commanders the same advantage as ground commanders have had in their battle space.  

"They will be able to have a picture of what's around them, where the good guys are and where the bad guys are; it will be a huge advantage," he said.  

There will be a number of other test flights before testing by the Navy begins in earnest at its Patuxent River facility in Maryland.  

The goal is to pre-position Triton in at least give areas around the globe.  

Zortman said the research and design team in Rancho Bernardo is on track to deliver several operational Tritons to the Navy by 2016.

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