Navy continues to expand infrastructure for future fleet of long-range maritime patrol UAVs

Posted by John Keller

VENTURA COUNTY NAVAL BASE, Calif., 28 Aug. 2013. U.S. Navy leaders are continuing their expansion of basing and infrastructure to support the Navy's future fleet of Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) long-range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Just this month, Navy officials have awarded two contracts to build a mission-control complex for MQ-4C Triton UAVs at Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Fla., and to build a maintenance and training facility for the Triton at Point Mugu Naval Air Station, which is part of the Ventura County Naval Base complex north of Los Angeles.

The Point Mugu contract, awarded Tuesday, calls for Triton Maintenance Training Facility PM50 renovation at Point Mugu, which will renovate the west wing of building PM50 at Point Mugu into a maintenance training facility for the Triton UAV.

The facility will provide training device classrooms, high bay aircraft trainers, instructors work area, and administrative spaces to support training efforts for the Navy's future fleet of MQ-4C Tritons.

The construction firm of A&D GC Inc. in Santee, Calif., is building the Triton maintenance and training facility at Point Mugu under terms of a potential $9.9 million contract awarded Tuesday by officials of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southwest in San Diego.

MQ-4C BAMS unmanned aircraft will work together with the Navy's future fleet of P-8A Poseidon long-range manned maritime patrol aircraft to provide combat information to expeditionary forces, carrier strike groups, and other Navy fighting forces. Specifically, BAMS UAVs will help locate and track potentially hostile surface ships and submarines.

The MQ-4C Triton UAV, which is based on the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk long-range UAV, will provide intelligence of broad open-ocean areas, and post contacts to the Global Information Grid (GIG) in support of a variety of intelligence activities.

When the MQ-4C Triton enters Navy service in 2015, the large unmanned aircraft will be based at Point Mugu; Jacksonville NAS; Kadena Air Base, Japan; Andersen Air Force Base, Guam; Sigonella NAS, Italy; as well as at installations on Hawaii and Diego Garcia.

Earlier this month officials of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast in Jacksonville, Fla., awarded $15.9 million contract to the construction firm of Whitesell-Green Inc. in Pensacola, Fla.

The company will construct a freestanding two-story building to house the BAMS mission-control complex, which will have two electromagnetic interference- (EMI) shielded mission control systems, a tactical operations center with sensitive compartmented information facility spaces, and several roof-top mounted antennas.

The construction company also will renovate some existing interior spaces at Jacksonville NAS, including a reconfigured command suite. Whitesell-Green also will prepare space at a remote site south of the new BAMS mission-control complex for the installation's antennas.

The BAMS mission-control complex at Jacksonville NAS will be the operations center for all activities of the BAMS UAVs, and will help consolidate and disseminate data from BAMS aircraft, as well as coordinate BAMS operations.

The BAMS control complex in Jacksonville should be finished in December 2014, while the BAMS maintenance and training facility at Point Mugu should be ready by November 2014 -- all in time for the first basing and deployments of the MQ-4 Triton the following year.

The MQ-4C Triton will be a forward deployed, land-based, autonomously operated system that provides a persistent maritime persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capability using a multi-sensor mission payload that blends maritime radar, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors, electronic support measures (ESM), automatic identification system (AIS) and basic communications relay.

The MQ-4C Triton air vehicle is based on the U.S. Air Force RQ-4B Global Hawk UAV, while the Triton's sensors are based on components and systems already fielded. The MQ-4C's ability to operate within a range of 2,000 nautical miles on missions lasting as long as 30 hours will enable the P-8A aircraft to focus on its core missions of ASW, anti-ship warfare, and multi-intelligence operations.

The MQ-4C Triton UAV is 48 feet long, 131 feet wide, 15 feet high, and can fly as fast as 310 knots at altitudes to 60,000 feet. The UAV will be able to fly unrefueled for nearly 10,000 nautical miles. The MQ-4C crew, who will operate at BAMS mission-control complexes like the one to be built at Jacksonville NAS, will consist of the aircraft operator, mission and communications commander, and two sensor operators.

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