SUITLAND, Md. --- When the MQ-4C Triton first took to the skies for flight testing in the U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) area of operations, it quickly became apparent to leadership that assistance would be required to analyze the massive amount of imagery and full motion video (FMV) the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) was capable of collecting.
The technical capacity to support the MQ-4C Triton’s early operational capability flights with processing, exploitation, and dissemination (PED) services did not exist at Commander, U.S. PACFLT headquarters in Hawaii. A call for assistance to the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) in Suitland, where the Nimitz Operational Intelligence Center has a large imagery interpretation team, resulted in a strategic partnership with the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity (MCIA) in Quantico, Virginia, focused on FMV PED for the high-altitude, long-endurance UAS.
As a result, nine ONI Nimitz Sailors are embedded with the MCIA FMV PED team, having completed a rigorous three-week training course certified through the Air Force Special Operations Command. Additionally, ONI Nimitz Sailors are now on watch exploiting FMV feeds at MCIA, and more are working their way through MCIA's training pipeline to join the effort.
ONI sees this initial success as the potential beginning of an enduring strategic partnership. Today, ONI Nimitz is working with MCIA to explore the possibility of additional exchange placements of Marines at the ONI Nimitz National Maritime Intelligence Operations Center civil maritime watch and Nimitz Sailors at MCIA's Enterprise Coordination Center watch.
While bolstering PACFLT MQ-4C Triton maritime patrol and reconnaissance efforts, the partnership between the Navy and Marine Corps service intelligence centers advances a strategic objective of the Chief of Naval Operations and Commandant of the Marine Corps to enhance naval integration.
The ONI-MCIA collaboration has influenced additional partnership developments at PACFLT, including involving the Third Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) in PACFLT’s “PED Forward” operation. This effort is enabling the Navy-Marine Corps team to explore a range of possibilities to share PED responsibilities between U.S. and forward-based capabilities.
The success of the ONI-MCIA partnership is particularly notable because it occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. The chief petty officer in charge of watch standards identified ten of ONI Nimitz’s top sailors with the skills to deliver the quality needed. Those selected were quarantined for fourteen days before traveling to Quantico. ONI’s team is following all CDC and ONI guidelines for wiping surfaces, wearing masks and being good guests.