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US Navy declares initial operational capability for MQ-4C Triton

An MQ-4C Triton, operated by US Navy squadron VUP-19, after landing at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, in August 2023. (US Navy)

The US Navy (USN) declared initial operational capability (IOC) for the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton, the service announced on 9 September.

Five MQ-4Cs have been delivered to the USN to date, Rho Cauley Bruner, Northrop Grumman's Triton programme director, told Janes on 15 September. The first ‘orbit' – a set of four aircraft, together able to keep a continuous watch over a designated part of the ocean – is complete, Bruner said, with a second orbit slated for delivery later in 2023.

The USN plans to maintain three orbits in total, each based in a different theatre of operations. The first orbit is operated by USN squadron VUP-19, which though based in Jacksonville, Florida, has deployed to Guam in the Pacific Ocean. The completed orbit is VUP-19's second Guam deployment – the first came following the USN's declaration of early operational capability in May 2020.

“Leveraging all the lessons we learned from our first deployment to Guam, Triton is poised to bring significant improvements that will increase its effectiveness in the battlespace, enabling our manned-unmanned team to maintain awareness in the maritime domain,” said Rear Admiral Adam Kijek, commander of the USN's Patrol and Reconnaissance Group, in a statement.

The MQ-4C has undergone sensor upgrades since the early declaration. The USN has not responded to questions about the updated sensors at the time of publication, but the upgrades may represent the aircraft's integration with integrated functional capability four (IFC-4), which among other things adds a signals intelligence payload capability.

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