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Report | Sept. 16, 2015

Navy Officials Justified the MQ-4C Triton Procurement Quantity



This is the first in a series of audits on the Navy MQ-4C Triton (Triton) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Program. Our overall objective for the series of audits was to determine whether the Navy effectively managed the Triton UAS acquisition program. For this audit, we determined whether the Navy adequately justified the overall Triton Unmanned Aircraft procurement quantity.


Navy officials justified the Triton planned procurement quantity of 70 aircraft.  Specifically, Navy officials used prototype test results and engineering estimates to develop the planned procurement quantity.

The Navy plans to procure 70 Triton aircraft; 4 with Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation funds, and 66 with procurement funds. Triton program office officials stated that 68 aircraft are needed to meet key performance requirements at an estimated attrition rate of 4 aircraft per 100,000 flight hours. Specifically,

  • The Navy will acquire four development aircraft using Research,Development, Test, and Evaluation funds. The first two are prototype aircraft, and will remain in use as test aircraft. The third and fourth test aircraft will be used for operational testing and transitioned to the fleet for mission use after testing.
  • Triton program office officials stated that 20 primary mission aircraft arerequired to perform its mission at least 80-percent of the time at a 2,000 nautical mile mission range within 5 operational sites. Each of the five operational sites will operate four aircraft.
  • The Triton attrition rate is based on Triton performance requirements and contractor engineering data. As of June 2015, contractor engineering data support the estimated attrition rate.

Office of the Chief of Naval Operations officials included the quantity of 70 aircraft in the development document that was submitted for Joint Requirements Oversight Council review and approval to support the initial production decision, in accordance with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction.

We are not making recommendations in this report. However, prior to the full rate production decision planned in FY 2018, it is important that Navy officials re-validate the accuracy of the engineering estimates after operational test data become available. Quantity requirements are considerations when planning a program, especially when considering affordability. Any quantity increase or decrease will have a significant cost impact on the program, which could make the program unaffordable.

This report is a result of Project No. D2015-D000AU-0063.000.

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