MOSS POINT, Miss. (AP) - Production has begun at a Northrop Grumman plant in Moss Point on fuselages for a new line of surveillance drones.
Officials marked the development with a Tuesday ceremony at Northrop's Unmanned Systems Center.
The Triton high-altitude surveillance drone being built for the Navy will be able to stay aloft for 24 hours, flying at an altitude of 11 miles and covering 2,000 miles of ocean at a time. Northrop, which is set to build 68 for the Navy, has produced two test models.
After Moss Point constructs a fuselage, it is to be sent to Palmdale, Calif., for final assembly.
The first Triton should roll off the assembly line in fall 2014.
In conjunction with the P-8A Poseidon, the Triton will replace the aging P-3 aircraft, said Steve Enewold, Northrop's vice president and manager of the BAMS Unmanned Aircraft System.
"It's a very important capability for the Navy," he said, noting that the drone will be used for drug investigatons, counterinsurgency and a variety of other missions.
Jackson County Economic Development Foundation Director George Freeland said the center's growing product line and success is important for all of Jackson County.
"There's a lot going on in aerospace in our own backyard," he said. "The success here is validation -- for the workforce, the community and Jackson County as a whole -- that we can compete for aerospace industry.
"This can only bode well for us," he said.
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