Northrop Grumman Corporation’s MQ-4C Triton Flying Test Bed (FTB) recently completed a demonstration of persistent long-range targeting during this year’s Northern Edge 2023 military training exercise. Conducted around the Gulf of Alaska, this demonstration highlighted Triton’s potential to enhance joint, distributed maritime operations, and further support sea-control in contested environments. Triton is preparing for Initial Operational Capability (IOC) later this year.
«Northern Edge strengthens the readiness and operational capabilities of joint forces so the ability to test and demonstrate critical long-range targeting capabilities with Triton helps ensure we’re ready to effectively operate and respond to contingencies in the Pacific or anywhere in the world», said Captain Josh Guerre, Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems program manager.
The Triton FTB exercise scenarios, executed during multiple flights over seven days, focused on tasking, collection, processing, exploitation and dissemination of information to help maintain a robust common operating picture. During the exercise, the Triton FTB tracked and monitored all maritime traffic within its broad visual field. Upon receipt of the data, ground operators at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage were able to process and disseminate the Gulf of Alaska maritime common operating picture to command and control units using Triton’s Minotaur mission interface.
«Northern Edge helps the joint force integrate platforms like Triton to outpace emerging threats», said Jane Bishop, vice president and general manager, global surveillance, Northrop Grumman. «Testing and demonstrating Triton’s developing technologies, along with its unprecedented maritime multi-intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting capability, helps ensure our warfighters can prevail in complex environments».
The exercise showcased Triton’s developing technologies involving artificial intelligence, machine learning, edge processing and enhanced communications.
Triton’s participation in Northern Edge was executed in collaboration with the U.S. Navy’s Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office (PMA-262) as well as operational commands.
Program Executive Office, Unmanned and Small Combatants (PEO USC) announced the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS), a critical component of the U.S. Navy’s suite of mine countermeasure technologies, has achieved Initial Operating Capability (IOC).
The Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) declared UISS IOC on 22 July. The program completed formal testing and delivered a system with logistics and training material with appropriately trained Fleet personnel to execute minesweeping as part of the Mine CounterMeasures (MCM) Mission Package (MP).
«UISS’s declaration of IOC is a monumental achievement for the Navy’s Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Mission Package (MP)», said Captain Godfrey «Gus» Weekes, LCS Mission Modules (PMS-420) Program Manager. PMS-420 is the office that oversees UISS within PEO USC.
Capable of being operated from Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), shore, or vessels of opportunity (VOO), UISS provides acoustic and magnetic minesweeping coupled with the semi-autonomous, diesel-powered, aluminum-hulled Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MCM USV). The MCM USV is an integral part of the MCM mission package and serves as the tow platform for both minesweeping and mine hunting missions.
Notably, this is also the first IOC of an unmanned surface platform by the U.S. Navy, marking an important milestone in the evolution toward a hybrid fleet of manned and unmanned systems. «Over the years, the program has worked tirelessly to mature and field the UISS system that will keep the Navy’s most valuable asset, our sailors, safer by keeping them out of the minefield. With this declaration, the program is inching closer toward system-wide IOC for the MCM MP», Weekes said.
Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lieutenant General Mark Wise announced the Marine Corps has achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in the CH-53K King Stallion on April 22, 2022. This plan supports General Berger’s Force Design 2030 by improving capabilities and restructuring Marine Corps aviation for the future fight.
In addition to meeting IOC criteria, the CH-53K King Stallion successfully completed a thorough initial operational test and evaluation period that resulted in over 3,000 mishap free hours flown in various challenging environments and terrain.
«My full confidence in the CH-53K’s ability to execute the heavy lift mission is the result of successful developmental and operational testing conducted by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 and Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1», said Wise.
The CH-53K King Stallion is an optimized vertical, heavy lift, sea-based, long-range solution for the naval force and will immediately provide nearly three times the lift capability of the CH-53E Super Stallion, with the ability to transport one hundred percent of the vertical Marine Air-Ground Task Force. Per the Commandant’s Force Design 2030 Annual Update, the CH-53K King Stallion will complement connectors that will enable littoral maneuver and provide logistical support to a widely disaggregated naval force.
«The success to date of the CH-53K King Stallion is a reflection of the hard work and effort by the Marines, sailors, and civilians at VMX-1, H-53 Program Office (PMA-261), and Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 461, and the support we have received over many years from across the Department of the Navy and our industry partners», said Wise.
The CH-53K King Stallion boasts an engine that produces 57% more horsepower with 63% fewer parts relative to its predecessor, which translates to an expanded capability to deliver internal and external cargo loads, providing the commander a mobility and sustainment capability the MAGTF has never had before.
The most notable attribute of the CH-53K King Stallion is its ability to maintain increased performance margins in a degraded aeronautical environment, for example at higher altitudes, hotter climates and carrying up to 27,000 lbs./12,247 kg out to 110 nautical miles/127 miles/204 km; whereas, the CH-53E Super Stallion would be limited to a 9,628-pound/4,367-kg external load in the same environment.
The Marine Corps plans to deploy the first CH-53K King Stallion Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) detachment in fiscal year 2024, setting the initial conditions for sustained CH-53K King Stallion deployments in support of MEUs.
The U.S. Navy announced Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the CMV-22B Osprey, confirming the platform’s operational readiness following the successful completion of its maiden deployment, on February 18, 2022.
The aircraft was formally declared IOC on December 14, 2021, aligning with the scheduled first-quarter fiscal year requirement.
«The CMV-22’s maiden deployment with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 and the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) team is an operational success, giving me the confidence necessary to make the declaration», said Rear Admiral Andrew Loiselle, Director, Air Warfare Division, N98, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. «As we continue to deliver the advanced platforms that will make up the Air Wing of the Future, the CMV-22B Osprey provides the necessary support and more to carry our future force».
Loiselle’s designation marks a key milestone in the design, development, acquisition and testing of the CMV-22B Osprey and confirms its relevance and readiness to meet the needs of the Navy’s Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) mission. The aircraft transports personnel, mail, supplies and cargo from shore bases to aircraft carriers at sea, and will eventually replace the C-2A Greyhound.
«IOC designation is more than a stamp of approval», said U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Brian Taylor, V-22 Joint program manager. «It is a vote of confidence from top Navy leadership that the design, testing and production of this aircraft meet the logistical needs of the carrier air wings designated to fly the CMV-22B Osprey».
This past summer marked the first deployment for the CMV-22B Osprey. Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) 30 embarked on the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) alongside the F-35C Lightning II and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye squadrons. The first deployed detachment has executed a mission completion rate of 98% and a mission capable rate of 75%. The CMV-22B Osprey is a crucial element of future carrier airwings due to the cargo capacity needed to transport F-35 power modules and additional logistics support for future carrier air wing deployments with next-generation platforms.
«This aircraft went from first flight to first deployment in 19 months; a feat possible through the dedication of the Navy’s acquisition, engineering, test and operational communities, as well as industry, all working in tandem, toward a common goal», said Taylor.
With 50% more internal fuel than the Marine Corps’ Osprey variant, CMV-22B Osprey can transport up to 6,000 pounds/2,721.5 kg of cargo and personnel over a 1,150 nautical mile/1,323 mile/2,130 km range. The U.S. Navy redesigned the forward sponson fuel tanks and added two wing fuel tanks to add capacity and extend the flight range.
«As our fighter/attack and surveillance aircraft expand in both capability and size to extend the range of the carrier air wing, we must also evolve our support aircraft, in tandem, to supply those platforms. The CMV-22B Osprey will transport cargo and personnel to outfit the most advanced aircraft carrier strike groups as we continue to meet the needs of our missions worldwide», said Taylor.
The program will continue to refine and test capabilities on the aircraft, addressing the agile needs of the fleet. To date, Bell Boeing has delivered 14 aircraft with 44 on contract and full operational capability expected in 2023.
The Netherlands Ministry of Defence and Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) have officially declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for their F-35A Lightning II fleet. With this announcement the Netherlands becomes the eighth country and 12th military service to declare IOC for its F-35A Lightning II fleet.
«The declaration of IOC ushers in a new era of air power that gives the RNLAF transformational capabilities», F-35 Program Vice President and General Manager Bridget Lauderdale said. «I am proud of the Lockheed Martin team’s commitment to delivering the most effective, survivable and connected fighter to our partners in the Netherlands».
The most advanced fighter jet ever built, the F-35A Lightning II offers the RNLAF unmatched air superiority. Using its sensors and low observable technology, the F-35A Lightning II can operate with impunity in contested airspace and fuse a picture of the battlespace for other air, land and sea assets. Along with its advanced weapons capacity and superior range, the F-35A Lightning II offers unparalleled combat capabilities. The F-35A Lightning II will ensure the RNLAF can protect the national interest of the Netherlands and contribute to critical regional allied deterrence missions for decades to come.
The F-35A Lightning II program is leveraging the Netherlands’ industrial experience and expertise gained on the F-16 Fighting Falcon program to contribute to the technology development and production of the F-35 Lightning II. Every F-35A Lightning II contains components manufactured by Dutch companies, with more than 25 suppliers from across Dutch industry contributing to the program. With the introduction of advanced technologies, Dutch industry is strategically positioned to participate in the production of more than 3,000 F-35 Lightning II aircraft over the life of the program.
A total of 24 F-35As have been delivered to the RNLAF, and RNLAF crews have surpassed more than 9,085 flight hours to date, with 55 pilots and 262 maintainers supporting the fleet.
With more than 730 aircraft operating from 29 bases and ships across the globe, the F-35 Lightning II plays a critical role in today’s global security environment. More than 1,535 pilots and 11,500 maintainers have been trained on the aircraft. Nine nations have F-35s operating from their home soil.
51.4 feet/15.7 m
14.4 feet/4.38 m
35 feet/10.7 m
460 feet2/42.7 m2
Horizontal tail span
22.5 feet/6.86 m
29,300 lbs./13,290 kg
Internal fuel capacity
18,250 lbs./8,278 kg
18,000 lbs./8,160 kg
70,000 lbs. class/31,751 kg
Standard internal weapons load
two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles;
two 2,000-pound/907 kg GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) guided bombs
The U.S. Navy declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) on May 4, signaling the system’s ready to provide precision approach and landing capabilities to tactical carrier aircraft at sea in support of naval aviation operations worldwide.
JPALS is a global positioning system-based system that integrates with shipboard air traffic control and landing system architectures to guide fixed-wing tactical carrier aircraft with pinpoint approach and landings on nuclear aircraft carriers (CVN) and amphibious assault ships (LHA/LHD) in all weather and sea surface conditions.
«JPALS has reached a historic milestone, which supports our requirement to deliver, operate and maintain a Navy with a focus on our core roles of sea control and power projection», said Commander Jeff «Doogie» Dugard, Director of the Naval Airspace and Air Traffic Control Standards and Evaluation Agency. Dugard worked closely with the Naval Air Traffic Management Systems Program Office (PMA)-213 to ensure all requirements were met to demonstrate that JPALS will safely and effectively support U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aviation at sea.
The initial operational capability was declared by Rear Admiral Gregory Harris, Director Air Warfare Division, N98, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, following the successful installation, integration and flight certification of the first JPALS production unit aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) in December 2020. After the flight certification, the JPALS team continued working with the Navy’s operational test community to demonstrate that the F-35C could effectively conduct at-sea precision approaches to the flight deck, and that adequate manning, training and sustainment infrastructure were in place to support and sustain JPALS operations while globally deployed.
The JPALS IOC declaration is the culmination of many years of system development and testing activities that began in 2008. The JPALS team has successfully provided a critical combat capability to the U.S. Naval Fleet, delivering the IOC capability nearly a year ahead of the planned threshold while overcoming many challenges including delivering, installing, testing and certifying systems during a persistent global pandemic.
«The achievement of JPALS IOC is a positive reflection on the hard work, innovation and resilience from a dedicated team of government and industry professionals who have developed and fielded this critical capability to the Warfighters», said Captain Kevin Watkins, PMA-213 program manager.
JPALS has been supporting F-35B Lightning II deployments on LH-class amphibious assault ships with an early operational capability since 2016, and will now provide the all-weather, precision navigation, approach and landing capability for all F-35C Lightning II deployments on CVNs as well. JPALS will also support future operations with the Navy’s unmanned MQ-25A Stingray aboard CVNs.
The Marine Corps’ Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is officially ready to deploy and support missions of the naval expeditionary force-in-readiness worldwide.
Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Combat Development and Integration declared the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program – part of the Light Tactical Vehicle portfolio at Program Executive Officer (PEO) Land Systems – reached Initial Operational Capability, or IOC, on August 2, nearly a year ahead of schedule.
«Congratulations to the combined JLTV Team for acting with a sense of urgency and reaching IOC early», said Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts. «Changing the speed in which we deliver, combined with coming in under cost and meeting all performance requirements, is a fine example of increasing Marine Corps capabilities at the speed of relevance which enables our Marines to compete and win on the modern battlefield».
The JLTV, a program led by the Army, will fully replace the Corps’ aging High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle fleet. The JLTV family of vehicles comes in different variants with multiple mission package configurations, all providing protected, sustained, networked mobility that balances payload, performance and protection across the full range of military operations.
«I’m proud of what our team, in collaboration with the Army, has accomplished. Their commitment to supporting the warfighter delivered an exceptional vehicle, ahead of schedule, that Marines will use to dominate on the battlefield now and well into the future».
Several elements need to be met before a program can declare IOC of a system, which encompasses more than delivery of the system itself. The program office also had to ensure all the operators were fully trained and maintenance tools and spare parts packages were ready.
«IOC is more than just saying that the schoolhouses and an infantry battalion all have their trucks», said Eugene Morin, product manager for JLTV at PEO Land Systems. «All of the tools and parts required to support the system need to be in place, the units must have had received sufficient training and each unit commander needs to declare that he is combat-ready».
For the JLTV, this means the program office had to fully field battle-ready vehicles to the Marine Corps schoolhouses – School of Infantry East at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; School of Infantry West at Camp Pendleton, California; The Basic School at Quantico, Virginia; and the Motor Transport Maintenance Instruction Course at Camp Johnson, North Carolina – and to an infantry battalion at II Marine Expeditionary Force. The program office started delivering vehicles to the schoolhouses earlier this year and started delivering vehicles to the infantry battalion last month.
On August 2, Lieutenant Colonel Neil Berry, the commanding officer for 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, notified Morin and his team of the unit’s combat readiness with the JLTV. On August 5, The Director, Ground Combat Element Division at Combat Development and Integration (CD&I) notified Program Manager (PM) LTV of its IOC achievement. The JLTV is scheduled to start fielding to I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF I) and III MEF before the end of September.
According to LTV Program Manager Andrew Rodgers, during the post-acquisition Milestone C rebaseline of the JLTV schedule in January 2016, IOC was projected to occur by June 2020.
Rodgers says that detailed program scheduling, planning and, most importantly, teamwork with stakeholders across the enterprise enabled the program office to deliver the vehicles and reach IOC ahead of schedule.
«It was definitely a team effort, and we built up a really great team», said Rodgers. «In terms of leadership, our product managers’ – both Gene Morin and his predecessor, Dave Bias – detailed focus and ability to track cost, schedule and performance was key. Neal Justis, our deputy program manager, has significant prior military experience working for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, so having him on board knowing how to work the Pentagon network was a huge force multiplier».
Rodgers is quick to note that, although the team has reached IOC, this is really only the beginning of the JLTV’s future legacy.
«We are really at the starting line right now. Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will see JLTVs in the Department of Defense», said Rodgers. «We’ll easily still have these assets somewhere in the DOD in the year 2100. Welcome to the start of many generations of JLTVs».