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​The Navy’s unmanned MQ-4C Triton flies over NAS Patuxent, Md., while completing a ferry flight from Northrop Grumman's California facility. Navy photo.

​The Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance version of the Global Hawk, the MQ-4C Triton, began its final series of operational tests to clear it for low-rate initial production, Naval Air Systems Command anno​unced. "We worked very hard to demonstrate system performance and stability leading up to the start of operational assessment,” Program Manager Sean Burke said in a release. Triton began a series of six test flights from NAS Patuxent River, Md., that will test each of its main missions—surveillance, surface and amphibious warfare support, as well as strategic, humanitarian, and civil-support missions, according to the release. The Pentagon will make a decision to clear Northrop Grumman to begin initial production based on the outcome of the trials early next year. The Navy plans to take delivery of three production MQ-4Cs next year, and eventually procure a total of 68 Tritons to provide forward-deployed ISR in support of its fleets worldwide, with an initial capability from 2017. Triton began the two-month test phase on Nov. 17.