Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19 recently successfully conducted its first flights as a squadron of the Navy’s newest unmanned aerial system (UAS), the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton.

The “Big Red” squadron, flew both of their MQ-4Cs, which had previously been delivered earlier this year for the first time out of Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu in California. Each aircraft was airborne for several hours to conduct functional check flights testing the operability of the aircrafts’ mechanics and systems.

These flights served as both the culmination of the years of hard work to establish VUP-19 as flight-ready, and the beginning of the squadron’s next chapter as they prepare the aircraft for operational deployment.

The Tritons took off from California operated by pilots from both VUP-19 and the Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1. Pilots worked from a forward operating base (FOB) as part of the squadron’s detachment positioned there to facilitate the launch, recovery, and maintenance of the MQ-4C.

Following takeoff, control of the unmanned aircraft was passed to the main operating base (MOB) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, where VUP-19 and VX-1 pilots, flight officers and sensor operators conducted the operational portion of the event. Upon the conclusion of the flight, prior to landing, control of the Triton was returned to the FOB pilots in California who then brought the aircraft back in for a safe arrival.

“This is certainly an important milestone.” remarked VUP-19 Commanding Officer Cmdr. John LeVoy, “I’m extremely proud of what the combined Big Red and VX-1 teams have been able to accomplish, and am looking forward to how the squadron handles the upcoming challenges with the Triton platform.”

Moving forward, VUP-19 plans to continue operating Tritons out of Point Mugu as they gear up for the aircraft’s eventual move to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. It is from this permanent forward-deployed position that Triton will enter its early operational capability to fly missions in the Pacific region.

VUP-19 is the United States Navy’s first unmanned maritime patrol squadron, which was established in October 2013 and commissioned in October 2016.

Homeported at NAS Jacksonville with a permanent detachment to Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu in California, VUP-19’s current mission is to operate the MQ-4C Triton in the baseline configuration supporting U.S Seventh Fleet operations.