Northrop Grumman has announced it’s started building Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton drone, writes Stephen Kuper.
The device is a collaboration between the RAAF and the US Navy, and provides around-the-clock maritime wide-area ISR, operating at altitudes exceeding 50,000 feet. It’s designed to operate in conjunction with Australia’s planned fleet of 12 manned P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft.
Australia is currently scheduled to receive its first ground control station in 2022 and its first of six to seven Tritons in 2023.
Remotely flying out of RAAF Edinburgh, South Australia, the Tritons are capable of monitoring 5.2 million square kilometres in a 24-hour mission and seamlessly flying a round trip for sustained surveillance and in support of allied freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea from the Northern Territory.
Air Commodore Terry van Haren, the RAAF’s air attaché to the Australian embassy, said the MQ-4C Triton would provide a “very important ISR capability” for Australia.
“It is ideally suited for Australian operating conditions, given its high altitude, long endurance, and impressive sensor suite,” said AIRCDRE van Haren. “The Royal Australian Air Force looks forward to operating the MQ-4C alongside its other ISR and response aircraft such as the P8A Poseidon.”
The nation’s Tritons provide a quantum leap in the nation’s surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, while the facilities and crew required to operate, train and maintain will be part of the initial $1.4 billion investment, which includes $364 million on new facilities at RAAF Bases Edinburgh and Tindal (in NT).
US Navy Captain Dan Mackin, the US Navy’s Triton program director, said the partnership between the two countries “remains strong” as they prepare to welcome the first Triton aircraft to Australia in 2023.
“With much of our team working remotely, geographically dispersed, and across many time zones, I am so impressed with the continued productivity I have seen and the great work being done,” said CAPT Mackin.