Northrop Grumman has delivered the first operational MQ-4C Triton aircraft to US Naval Base Ventura County in Point Mugu, California, with a total of 68 deliveries anticipated for the US Navy program of record.
Doug Shaffer Northrop Grumman vice president (Triton programs) said the aircraft represents the beginning of a new era for naval aviation.
“Triton is a high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned system that delivers a critical autonomous capability to the Navy, expanding the service’s maritime patrol mission.”
Northrop Grumman is expected to deliver the second operational Triton aircraft later this year. Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu is home to the maintenance detachment of Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP)19. Maintainers will prepare the first two operational Triton aircraft for its employment to Guam, scheduled next year. VUP-19, the Navy’s first unmanned patrol squadron, is based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. Pilots and operators will fly the unmanned Triton aircraft from NAS Jacksonville.
The Navy has announced plans to deploy Triton to NAS Mayport, Florida, NAS Sigonella, Italy and the Middle East in the future.
The Commonwealth plans acquisition of seven MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft under Project Air 7000 Phase 1B. As ADM reported in January, the timeline is largely dependent upon the US Navy’s operational test and evaluation process, but the RAAF will not begin buying aircraft until early next decade and the Project Office is confident any slippage in the US Navy schedule can be accommodated.
The RAAF is planning to acquire the next iteration of Triton, the ‘Multi-Intelligence’ variant, which will be the first major upgrade to the baseline US Navy platform. Consideration is being given to joining a co-operative development program, similar to the Poseidon initiative.
“There will be a Government decision in [early 2018] as to whether we will formally proceed but, based on what we are seeing with the P-8A program, I think it will be a positive strategy to follow,” AIRCDRE Kitcher told ADM.