The milestone was announced by Northrop Grumman following the start of the Triton’s second operational deployment to Andersen AFB in Guam. Operated by Unmanned Patrol Squadron 19 (VUP-19) ‘Big Red’, the MQ-4Cs arrived in the Indo-Pacific theatre on August 4. The squadron had previously deployed to Guam in January 2020 and achieved early operational capability in May, that year. The rotation to the US 7th Fleet’s area of responsibility (AOR) concluded in October 2022. This current deployment marks the first for Tritons equipped with the Integrated Functional Capability 4 (IFC-4) upgrades.
This latest configuration provides the maritime HALE UAV with significant updates, including an upgraded sensor suite. The highly upgraded IFC-4 multi-intelligence configuration has enhanced the Triton’s ability to provide a persistent maritime intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting (MISR-T) capability. Operating alongside the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, the MQ-4C is a key component of the US Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force (MPRF) family of systems.
While the Navy initially planned to acquire as many as 70 unmanned MQ-4Cs, it recently reduced its procurement plans to include just 27 Tritons, with the final two set to be acquired in Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24). This change in inventory requirement will result in the procurement of 22 production examples and five development airframes. Fielding plans will see the Navy employ 25 MQ-4Cs operationally, while one example will be retained as a dedicated test asset and another was written off as a result of a landing mishap that occurred in September 2018. Northrop Grumman delivered five multi-intelligence-configured Tritons to the Navy through June 2023.