The US Navy’s MQ-4C Triton will enter into an early operational capability (EOC) from the western Pacific island of Guam by the end of 2018.
Speaking to media at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space 2018 exposition in Washington DC on April 9, the US Navy says the first two production Tritons that were delivered to NAS Point Mugu in California last year will join the 7th Fleet on Guam by the end of the year, and will progress to an expected initial operating capability (IOC) of four air vehicles by 2021.
“One on the way out, one on station, one on the way back, and one in maintenance,” USN Triton program manager Capt Dan Mackin said when describing how the four air vehicles would maintain a 24/7 orbit.
“One of the main reasons that the Navy decided to fund Triton was to have that teaming arrangement, to be able to communicate back and forth between P-8 (Poseidon) and the Triton aircraft,” he added. “One of the primary missions of P-8 is to do the anti-submarine warfare and ISR, not necessarily things you want to do at the same time.”
The other limitation to IOC is delays in the integration of the advanced ‘Multi-Int’ intelligence sensors which will allow Triton to replace the ageing EP-3E Aries II manned signals intelligence aircraft.
The US Navy has a program of record requirement of 68 Tritons which will operate from five operating bases at NAS Sigonella in Italy, Bahrain in the Persian Gulf region, NAS Guam, NAS Mayport on the US Atlantic coast, and either NAS Point Mugu or NAS Whidbey Island on the US Pacific Coast.
Australia is expected to soon consider Gate 2 of its prolonged Project AIR 7000 Phase 1B program to acquire up to seven Tritons for maritime ISR operations out of RAAF Bases Edinburgh and Tindal, with an expected service entry of 2022/23.