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RAAF, US Navy ramp up Triton development program

written by australianaviation.com.au | August 29, 2019

RAAF SQNLDR Neale Thompson and an ITT MQ-4C Triton. (US Navy)
RAAF SQNLDR Neale Thompson and an ITT MQ-4C Triton. (US Navy)

The co-operative development program between the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the US Navy to develop capabilities for the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned maritime surveillance system is ramping up, with the placement of eight RAAF personnel with the program in the US.

The eight cooperative project personnel (CCP) have joined the program over the past 12 months following the signing of the agreement in 2018, and the Commonwealth’s commitment to acquire up to six Tritons and associated mission control stations under the Triton development, production and sustainment cooperative program.

“This cooperative program aligns with [the US DoD’s] objective to strengthen alliances that are crucial to our National Defense Strategy,” US Navy Triton program manager, Capt Dan Mackin said in a statement.

“We are working together with our Australian counterparts to jointly define new capabilities that benefit both countries.”

A file image of the MQ-4C Triton. (Northrop Grumman)
A file image of the MQ-4C Triton. (Northrop Grumman)

RAAF flight test team member, SQNLDR Neale Thompson added: “It is an absolute privilege to fulfil this role, working with my US Navy colleagues to develop and test this new, unmanned platform.”


“The dedication and ingenuity displayed by the system administrator team in this example epitomized the US Navy’s genuine commitment to integrate their cooperative partners within the Triton program,” SQNLDR Thompson said.

RAAF SQNLDR Neale Thompson. (US Navy)
RAAF SQNLDR Neale Thompson. (US Navy)

SQNLDR Thompson is a former AP-3C tactical coordinator (TACCO) and is a graduate of US Naval Test Pilot School, and is the first international partner to operate the Triton.

His responsibilities include managing mission systems during flight and to perform the mission systems team-lead role at the integrated test team (ITT), where he manages specialised flight test engineers and project officers.

“This is the latest important milestone for our cooperative program, which allows our test team member to be fully involved in all facets of testing,” Australian National Deputy for the Triton program WGCDR Troy Denley said.

“The cooperative program continues to mature with all CPP embedded in key roles that will help ensure the success of the program for both nations. This is due in no small part to the dedication of Triton’s international team.”

In June 2018, the Australian government’s announced it would acquire six Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton maritime unmanned aerial systems.

The first RAAF Triton was scheduled to be delivered in mid-2023, initial operating capability (IOC) is planned to follow 12 months later, and a full operational capability (FOC) of all six systems is scheduled for mid-2025.

VIDEO: A look at the role of the MQ-4C Triton in Australia from the RAAF YouTube channel.

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Comments (4)

  • TwinTiger


    After the Iranians managed to splash one of the USN Tritons recently, perhaps incorporation of some on-board counter measures would now be in order.

  • G4George


    2 years to get 6 UAS craft FOC? this is just as bad as 5 years needed to design the conventional lead acid diesel Barracuda subs. the Chinese are knocking up nuclear subs in 3 months.

  • Biggles


    It appears the Triton’s intended purpose was to operate in uncontested airspace.

  • Jason


    Nope, it was an older RQ-4 Global Hawk, been around for about 20 years. Tritons are the next generation model specifically designed for the US Navy…

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