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Australia’s first Triton takes to the skies

written by Stephen Kuper | November 14, 2023

The multi-intelligence MQ-4C Triton is the only uncrewed high-altitude aircraft in the world performing persistent maritime surveillance today. (Image: Northrop Grumman)

The RAAF’s first MQ-4C Triton completed its first flight on Thursday, 9 November, at the company’s Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center in California.

This milestone achievement marks major progress as Northrop Grumman and the Royal Australian Air Force proceed towards delivery of the first aircraft in 2024.

The first flight lasted approximately six hours and 24 minutes and included a range of tests, namely airworthiness evaluations such as engine, flight control and fuel system checks. Basic aircraft handling tests were conducted and comes following the September announcement that Australia would proceed with the procurement of a fourth aircraft to enhance the resilience of RAAF’s fleet and provide superior surveillance capability to monitor and protect Australia’s maritime interests around the clock.

Christine Zeitz, chief executive and general manager, Australia and New Zealand, Northrop Grumman, welcomed the announcement by saying, “We are leveraging our deep expertise in uncrewed high-altitude long endurance aircraft to enable Australia to establish a superior long-range maritime surveillance capability to monitor and protect Australia’s maritime interests 24/7.”

These comments were reinforced by Air Marshal Robert Chipman, Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, who added, “Triton expands Australia’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability by providing reliable real-time intelligence and situational awareness. Persistent surveillance enables better planning, greatly enhancing joint military responses and operations.”


Australia’s role in the Triton cooperative program was critical to shaping its system requirements. Together, US and Australian defence forces will be able to share data collected by their respective Tritons, a critical ability in one of the world’s most strategically important regions.

With all four Australian Tritons currently under contract and progressing as planned through their production schedules, the systems will have a vital role to play with sensors and communication nodes that can facilitate the transfer of data across warfighting domains and various mission needs.

Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy said at the announcement of the fourth Triton in September 2023, “The upgrades to the fleet of Poseidon aircraft strengthens our ability to secure and protect Australia’s maritime interests. The investment in both these aircraft will deliver more jobs, capability, and security for Australians.”

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