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Australian MQ-4C Triton one step closer to delivery

written by Charbel Kadib | December 17, 2021
A file image of a Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton in Australian Defence Force colours. (Defence)
A file image of a Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton in Australian Defence Force colours. (Defence)

An aircraft fuselage has been mounted on the one-piece wing of Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton drone, marking a critical milestone in the production of the aircraft for the RAAF.

The first Triton is on track for delivery in 2023, with the US Navy expecting to achieve initial operating capability with its fleet of multi-intelligence Tritons – built with the same configuration.

This is expected to bolster interoperability between Australia and the US, enabling the forces to share data and maintain an autonomous intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting capability over maritime regions.

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Australia has currently purchased three of Northrop Grumman’s Tritons, a high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) aircraft employed for surveillance roles.

Rho Cauley Bruner, Triton’s program manager at Northrop Grumman, said, “This production milestone further demonstrates our commitment to both sides of the cooperative program between the RAAF and the US Navy.

“We are on schedule to deliver Triton’s powerful capability in support of Australia’s national security.”

US Navy Captain Josh Guerre, persistent maritime unmanned aircraft systems program manager, added, “This important milestone highlights the successful partnership between our two great nations, and reflects the collaborative work between industry and government in delivering this strategic capability to our Australian mates.”

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This latest milestone comes just months after Northrop Grumman Australia delivered the Triton Network Integration Test Environment (NITE) to Defence ahead of schedule.

Based at RAAF Base Edinburgh, NITE will support the Chief Information Officer Group (CIOG) to configure and test the array of Triton network interfaces and systems prior to the delivery of the first aircraft to Australia in 2023.

It is anticipated the Tritons will deliver over 24-hour endurance, collecting essential ISR data over land and sea to enable rapid, informed decision-making.

The HALE systems have also been designed to support future connectivity with the joint force, leveraging advanced autonomy and artificial intelligence/machine learning.

The Australian government announced its intention to purchase the hunter-killer aircraft in 2018, but the acquisition has been controversial given supposed problems with it operating in urban environments.

The deal is likely to be worth more than $2 billion and is part of “Project AIR 7003”, a program to deliver an armed remotely piloted aircraft system to the ADF.

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