Virginia looks at new opportunities for Wallops Spaceport

NASA conducts an Orbital ATK full-power test of the upgraded Antares rocket at the Wallops Island facility.

3 governors, 1 mission: Bring drones to Wallops

, jcox6@dmg.gannett.com 1:24 p.m. EDT June 24, 2016

In a rare show of solidarity, all three Delmarva governors have signed on to support bringing a Navy drone surveillance program to Wallops Flight Facility.

Their letters provide a political boost to a campaign led by area business and aerospace industry leaders to persuade the Navy’s top brass to select Wallops as the program’s East Coast home base.

The head of the trade group pushing for the drones cheered the governors’ lobbying efforts.

“The Wallops Island Regional Alliance is deeply honored to have been involved in these steps to attain 3 very important Letters of Support,” Peter Bale, the group’s chairman, said in a statement.

The MQ-4C Triton drone program is expected to bring 400 personnel along with their families to where it’s based.

Wallops is competing with two other possible locations, both in Florida: Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville and Naval Air Station Key West.

Construction could begin on the base, wherever it’s located, as early as this fall. It would host launch and recovery operations as well as a maintenance facility. All told, the base would be home to four unmanned aircraft with room for up to four more undergoing maintenance.

Operations are expected to kick off in 2020, Navy officials say.

The new drones are slated to conduct reconnaissance missions over ocean and coastal regions. It was called “the first big step in unmanned aviation” by its manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, which has an office near the Wallops facility.

An environmental assessment of the three sites, a major step in determining the final location, is expected to be completed soon.

The Mid-Atlantic governors touted various reasons for basing Triton at Wallops in the northeast corner of Accomack County near Chincoteague.

The facility would be in close proximity to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, where Triton aircraft were first developed and tested, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in his May 18 letter. It would also be able to take advantage of Naval facilities in the Hampton Roads vicinity, he said.

“I believe that basing Triton in close proximity to these other Navy facilities, headquarters and operating forces will create synergies and facilitate the faster integration of Triton into the Navy’s battle network,” Hogan said.

READ MORE: Why supporters say Triton would be a “Richter scale event” for Delmarva. 

Wallops already has experience with similar unmanned aerial vehicles, including NASA’s RQ-4 Global Hawk, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe noted. The region’s aircraft controllers are accustomed to handling such vehicles and their unique needs.

Locating at Wallops will enable the Navy to tap into Delaware’s educational resources, including the University of Delaware’s mechanical engineering program and Delaware State University’s aviation program, Gov. Jack Markell said.

The region is also “less adversely impacted by hurricanes” and other severe weather events, he added.

Local officials have been practically unanimous in their support as well, with both Accomack and Worcester counties delivering similar endorsements.

Contact reporter Jeremy Cox at 410-845-4630 or on Twitter @Jeremy_Cox

LOS from Delaware’s Governor Markell shows united Delmarva initiative

WIRA has been working closely with Maryland Senator Jim Mathias to secure meetings with the Delaware political leadership to talk about the Triton Program. We are pleased to announce that through this interaction, Delaware’s Governor Markell has also signed on with a Letter of Support for the Triton Program.

WIRA would like to thank Senator Mathias for his support in attaining the meetings with the Governor of Delaware. Letters of Support have also been written by Virginia’s Governor Terry McAuliffe, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

WIRA Chairman, Peter Bale says, “Through this initiative, our 3 regional Governors have truly shown a united Delmarva approach to securing this opportunity.” Bale continues, “The Wallops Island Regional Alliance is deeply honored to have been involved in these steps to attain 3 very important Letters of Support and wishes to thank its Members and Corporate Sponsors for their continued support.”

View Governor Markell’s letter here:

Delaware Gov. Markell’s Triton Project Support Letter

 

Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan writes Letter of Support

WIRA is pleased to announce that we have been working with senior Maryland political staff and leadership in Annapolis and locally. A formal letter of support has been written from Governor Larry Hogan for the Triton Program.

Triton is the Navy’s latest unmanned system program of record with a projected life cycle continuing over the next two decades. This is a $14-Billion-dollar program bringing the possibility of 400 jobs, equipment and opportunities to our DELMARVA region.

The Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia is being considered as the East Coast Forward Operating Base for MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft. Proximity to NAS Patuxent River and Naval Air Combat Systems Command, where the Triton was developed and tested, along with the uncrowded airspace and rural environs make Wallops a favorable choice for the program.

WIRA sees this as an important step forward to securing such an opportunity for Wallops and the greater region surrounding.

WIRA Chairman, Peter Bale says, “This is a very unique opportunity for Delmarva; the timing related to the growth of the UAS industry is particularly beneficial for our region on many levels.” Bale continues, “I would personally like to thank Maryland’s Governor Hogan for his continued support for the Wallops Facility and for what this potential opportunity could bring to our area.”

His letter can be downloaded from here:

Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia – Support Letter (Governor Hogan)

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe writes Letter of Support

WIRA is pleased to announce that we have been working with senior political leadership in Richmond, VA. There has been a formal letter of support written from Governor Terry McAuliffe for the Triton Program.

Triton is the Navy’s latest unmanned system program of record with a projected life cycle continuing over the next 25 years. This is a $14-Billion-dollar program bringing the possibility of 400 jobs, equipment and opportunities to our DELMARVA region.

The Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia is being considered as the East Coast Forward Operating Base for MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft. Proximity to NAS Patuxent River and Naval Air Combat Systems Command, where the Triton was developed and tested, along with the uncrowded airspace and rural environs make Wallops a favorable choice for the program.

WIRA sees this as an important step forward to securing such an opportunity for Wallops and the greater surrounding areas.

WIRA Chairman Peter Bale says, “I would personally like to thank the Governor of Virginia for his continued support for the Wallops Facility and for what this potential opportunity could mean for the region.”

View his Letter of Support: Virginia Gov. McAuliffe’s Triton Project Support Letter