The US Navy’s Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton has been successfully integrated into 7th Fleet operations following its late-2019 deployment to Anderson AFB on Guam.
As part of a delayed early operational capability (EOC), two Tritons from Unmanned Patrol Squadron 19 (VUP-19) were deployed to Guam “to further develop the concept of operations and fleet learning associated with operating a high-altitude, long-endurance system in the maritime domain.” To this end, the aircraft have been integrated into fleet operations, conducted training flights, and have proven their ability to increase the US Navy’s maritime domain awareness across the region.
“Three months after arrival, two Tritons are quickly becoming an invaluable asset across the Indo-Pacific region, integrating into a series of missions that showcase increasing range and flight time,” a US Navy statement published on the US Navy Institute (USNI) webpage on May 12.
“Bringing Triton forward creates a complex problem set for our adversaries,” VUP-19 commanding officer, Cmdr Michael Minervini said in the statement. “Our ability to provide persistent ISR to fleet and combatant commanders is unmatched in naval aviation.”
The Triton has endured a troubled development in recent years, capped off earlier this year with a plan to suspend production of the system for two years as part of Navy’s contribution to the proposed FY21 President’s Budget. It was originally planned that EOC would occur sometime during 2016 with the Guam deployment and possibly another to the Middle East region, but development and funding issues delayed that by some three years.
The high-flying Triton can stay aloft for 28 hours and features advanced optical, radar and electronic sensors. It will complement the manned P-8A Poseidon, and replace the EP-3E electronic intelligence (ELINT) aircraft in US service. On Guam, the aircraft are currently under the command of the Commander of Task Force (CTF) 72.
The RAAF has committed to two Tritons to date of a requirement for six systems, and ADBR understands a proposal to accelerate production of Australia’s jets during the US Navy’s production pause has been recommended by Defence for Government considerations.