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Two new deals ahead of Triton’s arrival

written by Robert Dougherty | January 16, 2024

A replica of RAAF’s Triton as shown at AVALON 2023 (Defence, CPL David Cotton)

Preparations for the arrival of the first of Australia’s four Tritons are continuing after the ADF signed two new support service contracts for the aircraft.

The deal will see engineering firm KBR support the surveillance aircraft’s aeronautical and geospatial requirements alongside its mission planning.

Triton is known as a high-altitude, long-endurance platform, or HALE, because of its ability to fly at 50,000 feet and for up to 24 hours at a time.

Commercial aircraft typically fly at 30,000 feet and would need to refuel multiple times a day. Australia’s first is expected to arrive later this year.

The KBR contracts include surveying airfields which will be integral to activation of the sites to enable the operation of the aircraft.

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The company will then use this data to produce complex mission plans that the MQ-4C Triton air vehicle pilot will use to taxi, take-off, conduct missions, and land.

Nic Maan, KBR vice-president, government services APAC, welcomed the contract signing, saying, “These two new contracts are a great reflection of the team’s efforts in supporting MQ-4C Triton during 2023 and our company’s world-leading mission planning and sustainment capabilities.”

This contract announcement follows the first successful flight of the RAAF’s first MQ-4C Triton in November 2023, and the announcement that Australia would buy a fourth.

The aircraft will be flown by the recently reformed No. 9 Squadron. The group was originally formed in 1939 as a fleet cooperation unit working with seaplanes and served during World War II in the Mediterranean Sea, Indian and Pacific Oceans, receiving 12 battle honours before being disbanded in 1944.

It was reformed in 1962 with personnel deployed as a helicopter squadron in active service during the Vietnam War before being disbanded again in 1989.

Its third incarnation will see the squadron fly the Triton from RAAF Base Edinburgh and be known as No. 92 Wing Surveillance and Response Group.

Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Rob Chipman previously said the re-establishment of No. 9 Squadron on 11 June this year marked the beginning of a new era in the squadron’s distinguished history.

“9 Squadron has played an incredibly important role in the Royal Australian Air Force, serving during critical times for Australia’s security,” AIRMSHL Chipman said.

“I’m proud to see the squadron return to service in 2023.”

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