The U.S. Navy has selected Naval Station Mayport in Florida as the East Coast Forward Operating Base for the MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System, officials announced late Wednesday.
Mayport will be a permanent duty station for about 400 Triton UAS personnel and will support rotational deployments outside the continental United States. Facility construction will begin this year with the first Triton UAS scheduled to arrive in 2020.
“The MQ-4C Triton’s advanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities bring enhanced battlespace awareness for the fleet to achieve full spectrum superiority,” said Adm. Phil Davidson, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces.
Triton UAS is an unmanned, unarmed, remotely controlled aircraft employed to enhance maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data collection to the fleet, providing both tactical and strategic mission capabilities as part of the U.S. Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force, headquartered on the east coast at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida.
Local officials had lobbied heavily for the basing, which would have meant 400 new jobs and a possible economic boost of $400 million in the tristate area.
Officials including Gov. Larry Hogan, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe sent letters to the Pentagon asking that Wallops be chosen.
Wicomico County Council President John Cannon, County Executive Bob Culver and Mayor Jake Day, as well as Sen. Jim Mathias and Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, were also strongly in favor, as are members of the Wallops Island Regional Alliance.
During a visit to Salisbury on Monday, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot — pressing a political hot button — suggested the Trump administration would influence the basing to be in Florida, since neither Maryland nor Virginia voted to elect the new president.
Triton UAS is a multiple-sensor unmanned aircraft that is 48 feet long with a wingspan of 131 feet. The MQ-4C Triton UAS will conduct operations over water, with most operations occurring over international waters 12 miles or more offshore.
The U.S. Navy completed an Environmental Assessment that analyzed the environmental impacts associated with establishing facilities and functions to support the East Coast home basing and maintenance of the Triton UAS. The EA looked at three potential locations: NS Mayport; NAS Key West in Florida; and National Aeronautics and Space Administration Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The final EA identified no significant environmental impacts at any of the three sites.
Since there were no significant environmental impacts associated with the three locations, government officials said, the Navy’s decision was based primarily on its operational needs and its responsibility as a steward of taxpayer resources.
Located in a fleet concentration area, NS Mayport provides the most operational, maintenance, and family support for the least cost within its existing Navy facilities and services.