The first two Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft arrived in Guam over the weekend, marking a significant step toward increasing the U.S. Navy’s Western Pacific reconnaissance and surveillance capability. The introduction of MQ-4C Triton to the 7th Fleet area of operations expands the reach of the U.S. Navy’s maritime patrol and reconnaissance force in the Western Pacific. The unmanned aircrafts are part of an early operational capability being run by Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19, which is flying and maintaining the aircraft from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. The Tritons in Guam are operating under the under Commander of Task Force (CTF) 72, the lead for patrol, reconnaissance and surveillance forces in U.S. 7th Fleet.
Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19 is developing the concept for incorporating the high-altitude, long-endurance system into the maritime domain and augmenting the U.S. Navy’s current reconnaissance and surveillance operations with manned aircraft. VUP-19, the U.S. Navy’s first dedicated UAS squadron supported by an outstanding NAVAIR (Naval Air Systems Command) and industry team, is superbly trained and ready to provide the persistent ISR coverage the Navy needs. The Navy expects initial operational capability (IOC) for the program in 2021. The Navy had planned to deploy two Tritons to Guam by the end of 2018, Naval Air Systems Command announced in April 2018 at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space 2018 exposition.
The Northrop GrummanTritons are designed to combine a series of electro-optical sensors and radar to track maritime targets from as high as 60,000 feet over the ocean and compare tracks to automated identification systems (AIS) on ships, according to the U.S. Navy. The plan is for a Triton to relay the information back to a main operating base in the U.S. or to nearby P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine warfare manned aircraft. In December, the Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $251.6-million contract modification to build three more low-rate initial production MQ-4 Tritons. The u.S. Navy and the aircraft manufacturer Northrop Grumman spent years testing and evaluating the Tritons before flying them to Guam.