Military to bring in bigger drones
A newer, larger surveillance drone — specifically designed to watch the world’s oceans — will be based in Guam over the next few years, adding another layer to the cutting-edge technology at Andersen Air Force Base.
The MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Triton, which was unveiled only a few months ago, is built by Northrop Grumman, the same company behind the Global Hawk drones that are already at Andersen.
The military will start preparing to deploy the drones during fiscal 2014, and operations in the Pacific should start about three years later, said Joe Gradisher, spokesman for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance, according to an article in Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper.
“Pacific Command basing plans for BAMS include the use of Guam, but other bases may be considered in the future, subject to combatant commander desires and future diplomatic arrangements,” Gradisher said, according to the Stars and Stripes article.
ABC News and The Japan Times also reported that the drones, commonly known as “Tritons,” would be deployed to Guam.
Guam is already home to the RQ-4 Global Hawk, which is a large unmanned aircraft with a focus on land surveillance. However, military cutbacks have put the future of the Global Hawks in question.
Gradisher told Stars and Stripes the Tritons would join the Global Hawks at Andersen, but the Air Force announced in January that the Global Hawk program would be axed. Those cuts haven’t taken effect yet, so the drones are operating as normal at the air base.
An American intelligence analyst has said the two drones are very different, according to a story published by ABC News
“Global Hawk was designed for pinpoint imagery or eavesdropping on land targets, by overflight, or by flying obliquely up to 450 kilometers off an enemy’s coastline,” Matthew Aid said in an interview with ABC News.
“Triton was designed for broad area maritime surveillance — following ships from high altitude.”
The Tritons took to the skies in June, but a demonstration version crashed only a few days before the official unveiling ceremony at Northrop Grumman’s factory in California, according to the ABC News story. In response, Northrop Grumman said the demonstration aircraft was a worn-out Global Hawk that had very little in common with the improved Triton, the ABC News story reported.
Spokespeople at Andersen and Naval Base Guam were unable to answer questions about the Triton deployment yesterday, said Navy spokesman Lt. William Knight. More information about the impact of such a deployment may be available at a later date, he said.
It also is possible that Japan-owned drones could join the Tritons at Andersen.
The Japan Times has reported, citing anonymous sources, that the United States and the Japan Self Defense Forces have discussed joint use of the Andersen drone hangars. Tokyo plans to buy several spy drones by fiscal 2020, and the purpose of the pact is to keep an eye on China, the Japan Times reported.
In response to the story about Japan-owned drones, local Sen. Judith Guthertz, who is chairwoman of the Legislature’s military buildup committee, issued a statement calling the proposal a “win-win.”
“This is a welcome move,” Guthertz said, “and makes a lot of sense in light of developing circumstances in our region.”