The US Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Demonstration (BAMS-D) program has been finalised after being deployed to the Persian Gulf region for more than 13 years.
Originally deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base in the UAE in 2009 for an intended six-month concept demonstration to inform the requirements for what would become the MQ-4C Triton, the three Northrop Grumman RQ-4A Global Hawk uncrewed aircraft systems have maintained a continuous presence in the Gulf region ever since.
The Global Hawks were converted from former USAF RQ-4A Block 10 air vehicles which had previously been pressed into service over Afghanistan during the early phase of the Global War on Terror. The concept demonstration was continually extended when the aircraft proved themselves indispensable by providing ISR overwatch for US Navy, allied, and commercial shipping movements in the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, and the strategic Straits of Hormuz.
“BAMS-D has been a singular force multiplier for Fifth Fleet and US Central Command and has provided invaluable insights into the use of unmanned air systems as part of an overall concept of operations for naval ISR,” BAMS-D deputy program manager, Dave Seagle said in a NAVAIR release. “Despite the aging of the system and limited spares available, BAMS-D’s incredible operations and maintenance team achieved an overall mission availability rate of 96 percent, with more than 94 percent of scheduled missions completed.”
Of the three air vehicles assigned to the BAMS-D program, one crashed off the US east coast in 2012, while a second was shot down by Iran in June 2019.
The US Navy has now taken delivery of six MQ-4C Tritons, two of which are deployed to Guam in the Pacific Ocean in support of the US Navy’s Sixth fleet, while the RAAF’s first Triton is scheduled to be rolled out by the end of 2022 and commence flight trials in early 2023. A contract was signed on 22 June for a further two Lot-5 low-rate initial production (LRIP) Tritons for the US Navy.