UPDATED 14/12/18 WITH ADF COMMENTS:
A US Navy Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton made an emergency landing at NAS Ventura County at Point Mugu north of Los Angeles in September.
The incident, which occurred on September 12 saw the aircraft perform a wheels-up landing on the runway at Point Mugu, resulting in it being declared a Class A mishap which denotes more than US$2 million damage.
The aircraft was performing a test mission when it experienced a mechanical issue and was directed to return to the base. “As a precautionary measure, the pilots shut down the engine and attempted to safely land the aircraft on the runway,” a US Navy statement to the US Naval Institute (USNI) reads. “The aircraft’s landing gear did not deploy, and the aircraft landed on the runway with its landing gear retracted.”
The incident occurred just two months after the US Navy’s test squadron VUP-19 relocated to Point Mugu in preparation of an early operational capability (EOC) deployment to Guam, and six weeks after the Australian Government announced a Gate 2 milestone for Project AIR 7000 Phase 1B which will see up to seven Tritons acquired for the RAAF for long-range unmanned maritime surveillance.
All Triton test activities were suspended and VUP-19 was stood down pending the results of the investigation. “The stand down will last until the mishap investigation is complete,” the statement read, without giving an indication of when that may be.
The US Navy is still reportedly investigating the incident, and it is not known how it has affected the already-delayed EOC schedule.
In response to questions from ADBR, a defence spokesman told us, “The AIR7000-1B (Triton) Project Office and RAAF have been kept informed of the situation by the US Navy, including preliminary findings of the investigation. Defence defers to the US Navy for the public release of information related to the investigation. Defence does not expect the investigation to have an impact on the overall AIR7000-1B (Triton) schedule.”
The Defence statement added that it expects to sign contracts for the RAAF’s first Triton air vehicle and associated systems in early 2019.
“The Australian Government approved the acquisition of the first of six Triton air vehicles in June 2018. Defence plans to submit requests for approval for the remaining air vehicles from 2019,” the statement reads. “Delivery of the first Triton Mission Control System is expected in 2021/2022 and the first air vehicle in 2023. Training for RAAF air vehicle operators is planned to begin in 2022.”