Two Navy Northrop Grumman [NOC] MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) temporarily deployed to Japan have returned to their base in Guam, the service said on Oct. 15.

The Navy’s first two Tritons arrived in Guam in early 2020 for the first  MQ-4C squadron, Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP)-19 as part of the aircraft’s early operational capability (EOC) (Defense Daily, Jan. 27, 2020).

Last May, the Navy temporarily deployed these two aircraft to Japan. The Japan Ministry of Defense said the deployment aimed to demonstrate U.S. commitment to Japan’s defense and strengthen the country’s ability to perform maritime surveillance around Japan (Defense Daily, May 21).

In April, Rear Adm. Brian Corey, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, hinted at the Japan deployment when he said the Tritons were doing better than expected a year after initial deployment and their next step was proving they can operate beyond Guam (Defense Daily, April 16).

“We will be working on that through the fall, while we finish up what we call IOC four, which is the follow-on capability for Trident. So Trident is doing very, very well. In fact, it’s doing better than we expected in Guam,” Corey said at the time.

On Oct. 12 the two MQ-4Cs departed Naval Air Facility Misawa in Japan and returned to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. 

The Navy said the VUP-19 deployment “helped to develop the concept of operations, including expeditionary basing, and fleet learning associated with high-altitude, long-endurance systems operations in the maritime domain.”

The service added the two Tritons will continue to operate from Guam to provide maritime surveillance and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities (ISR) for the U.S. 7th Fleet.

The MQ-4C is meant to help complement the Navy’s Boeing [BA] P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. 

Last March, the Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $99 million modification for two more low-rate initial production Lot Five MQ-4Cs, increasing the total Navy order to 15 (Defense Daily, April 2).

The Navy plans to eventually procure 68 production Tritons.