By MC2 Amanda Cabasos
The Navy’s first squadron designated to fly the MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is taking shape at NAS Jacksonville.
Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19 Officer in Charge Cmdr. Shannon Clark recently explained developments in the program since the squadron stood up Oct. 1, 2013.
“We’re currently working to expand VUP-19 from an administrative entity to a more functional perspective,” said Clark.
“We will start some training on the actual air vehicle this summer to assist with some upcoming testing. However, our primary focus right now is ensuring that the administrative and operational sides of the squadron are properly functioning for the arrival of VUP-19’s first commanding officer (CO). This way, the CO can concentrate on assuming the duties of this command and focusing on the squadron’s mission.”
According to Clark, 21 officers and enlisted personnel will be assigned to VUP-19 at NAS Jacksonville by the end of this fiscal year. Approximately half of the Sailors will be aircrew/operators and the other half will be administrative support.
By the end of 2015, VUP-19, nicknamed “Big Red,” will have approximately 100 Sailors at the squadron’s detachment site located at Naval Base Ventura County/Point Mugu, Calif.
Currently, operators assigned to VUP-19 will receive training at NAS Patuxent River, Md. Flight training will eventually shift to VP-30 at NAS Jacksonville as soon as the Triton curriculum is validated and training equipment is installed.
“The initial teaching will be this summer at NAS Pax River under Northrop Grumman instruction. Training received is in preparation for our involvement in the Operational Assessment and Operational Evaluation testing periods for this platform,” explained Clark.
Other facilities aboard NAS Jacksonville that will support the UAV’s mission include the MQ-4C Triton Mission Control Center that is currently under construction, with a projected completion date of December 2014.
“This two-story structure, with an array of rooftop antennas, will house the squadron’s mission control stations” said Clark.
“In this facility, UAV Operators will execute all phases of the mission, mission planning, mission control and data analysis.”
“From here, the Triton will be operated around the globe by crews consisting of air vehicle operators, naval flight officers and aviation warfare operators.”
The Triton is designed to provide long-range, long-endurance maritime patrol coverage for Naval Air Forces Atlantic; 5th, 6th and 7th fleets; Fleet Forces Command operations in Atlantic; Task Force 80; and support the U.S. Northern and Southern commands as required.
According to the Navy’s Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office (PMA-262), as an adjunct to the P-8A, the MQ-4C Triton will provide combat information to operational and tactical users such as expeditionary strike groups, carrier strike groups and joint forces maritime component commanders.