A report today from the US Naval Institute News web site says the US Navy will stand up its first operational squadron of MQ-4C Triton UAVs this week – the first squadron to operate unmanned aircraft only.
CAPTION: An MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft in flight. US Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt.
The report says the new squadron, named Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19, will operate out of Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, collocated with manned P-8A Poseidon squadrons, with first deployments expected in 2018.
Reporter Megan Eckstein said the new squadron had no aircraft yet. It will receive its first vehicles late next year.
“In the mean time, the approximately 130 squadron members have already begun rotating through Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland to train with the test pilots stationed there,” she said in her report.
“In January, a Triton mission systems trainer will deliver to NAS Jacksonville to further train the air vehicle operators, and Naval Air Station Point Mugu in California has additional facilities to help train the maintainers.”
She said VUP-19 crew will also collaborate with P-8 operators to develop tactics, techniques and procedures for operating the two maritime patrol/reconnaissance aircraft in teams.
It is planned that VUP 19 aircraft pilots and system operators will always be based at NAS Jacksonville, operating the aircraft from there, but the aircraft themselves will eventually be based in and flown from Guam, some 13,000km away.
Supporting missions up to 24 hours, Triton is equipped with a sensor suite that provides a 360-degree view of its surroundings, for over 2000 nautical miles.
The Royal Australian Air Force will eventually operate seven Tritons, which will operate out of RAAF Base Edinburgh alongside the P-8A Poseidon, of which Australia will acquire up to 15.
The first P-8A Poseidon is expected to arrive in Canberra on 15 November 2016, with the 11 more aircraft to be delivered by March 2020.
Whilst building on elements of the Global Hawk UAS, the Triton incorporates reinforcements to the airframe and wing, along with de-icing and lightning protection systems, which will allow the aircraft to descend through cloud to get a closer look at ships and other targets at sea when needed.
MQ-4C Triton is unarmed, while the P-8A Poseidon can be armed for anti-ship and anti-submarine attack, as well as self-protection.
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