Operated by Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19, the MQ-4C is a high-altitude, long-endurance maritime intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting (MISR&T) platform that complements the P-8A Poseidon’s capabilities.
“Triton helps bolster our Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations on a global stage” said Lt. Christopher Lee, a Triton naval flight officer. “The communication and safety nets Triton brings to our friendly units is a game-changer.”
The MQ-4C began operating in the 7th Fleet area of operations (AOO) in 2020 to commence developing tactics, techniques, and procedures for unmanned aircraft operations. The two aircraft in the baseline configuration known as Integrated Functional Capability (IFC) 3 were forward deployed supporting Commander, Task Force 72 tasking. During this time, Triton conducted ISR operations using its multi-sensor mission payload.
While Andersen Air Force Base on Guam served as the primary location for VUP-19, MQ-4C aircraft also deployed to Misawa Air Base and Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, both in Japan, to refine the concept of operations for expeditionary basing. The ability to flexibly deploy to multiple sites within the 7th Fleet AOO was a successful outcome during the EOC period.
VUP-19 will return to 7th Fleet in 2023 to start the MQ-4C’s initial operational capability (IOC). The IOC period will utilize multiple Triton aircraft in the upgraded IFC-4 configuration to conduct enhanced MISR&T operations with an upgraded sensor suite.
Lee provided insight into the IFC-4 transition and discussed the new capabilities replacing aspects of the EP-3.
“From various locations around the world, Triton will execute its mission 24 hours per day, with little threat to Navy personnel,” said Lee.
These round-the-clock operations will bring enhanced MISR&T capabilities to 7th Fleet. VUP-19 plans to introduce this capability to more fleet areas around the globe, paving the way for future Navy unmanned systems.
VUP-19, based out of Naval Air Station Jacksonville, is currently operating from MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. The squadron conducts Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance as well as theater outreach operations as part of a rotational deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet AOO.
7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with Allies and partners in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.