Navy Stand-Down of Triton Drones Will Continue Until Crash Investigation Concludes

September 21, 2018 12:05 PM
The MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system completes its inaugural cross-country ferry flight at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Triton took off from the Northrop Grumman Palmdale, Calif. facility Sept. 17, 2014. US Navy photo.

The Navy will continue its stand-down of unmanned MQ-4C Triton operations in the wake of a crash in California until the investigation into the mishap is complete.

A Triton conducting operational testing ahead of a deployment to Guam later this year crashed near Naval Base Ventura County on Sept. 12. In the aftermath of the crash, USNI News reported the Triton community was temporarily ceasing operations.

Naval Air Force Atlantic spokesman Cmdr. Dave Hecht told USNI News today that “the stand down will last until the mishap investigation is complete,” a timeline for which is not available. He said the stand-down applies to all flight tests in the entire Triton community.

The air vehicle that crashed last week was part of Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19, which has a dual-site command structure at both Naval Base Ventura County and Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla. The squadron was the first unmanned-only squadron in the Navy and was set to conduct the Triton’s first deployment overseas later this year, when two airframes would be sent to Guam. Those aircraft would be controlled from Jacksonville, with a small group of maintainers on the ground to tend to the airframes. The Tritons would be able to support manned P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine and maritime surveillance planes in their missions over the Pacific.

Hecht told USNI News last week that a Triton performing operational testing “had an issue during flight and the decision was made to bring it back to base. While heading in for landing, the engine was shut down but the landing gear did not extend. The aircraft landed on its belly on the runway. No one was hurt and there was no collateral damage.”

Damage to the aircraft is estimated at more than $2 million, which is the threshold for a Class A flight mishap.

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein is the former deputy editor for USNI News.

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