Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft destined for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) was unveiled on 14 September by Northrop Grumman at Palmdale California. The Triton’s will be particularly useful in protecting Australia’s northern maritime regions.
Northrop Grumman began build in October 2020 with the fuselage and one-piece wing coupled together in December 2021. It is scheduled for production completion in 2023 and delivery to Australia in 2024. The Triton has a stated ceiling of over 50,000 feet (15,240 metres) and an endurance of over 24 hours.
“Triton will provide the Royal Australian Air Force with an unprecedented capability to monitor and protect our maritime approaches” said Air Marshal Robert Chipman, Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force at the event.
“Triton will work alongside the P-8A Poseidon and this unmanned aircraft system will allow us to cover significant areas, at longer ranges and has the ability to stay airborne longer than a traditional aircraft.”
A total of six Tritons are planned to be acquired with Northrop currently contracted for the first three. They will be based at RAAF Edinburgh, operating alongside the RAAF’s fleet of Boeing P-8A Poseidon. The Tritons are being acquired under the Australian government’s AIR 7000 Phase 2 ‘family of systems’ programme. It is a cooperative programme with the US Navy for development, production, and sustainment of the Triton capability.
Triton will give the RAAF wide-area intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting (ISR&T) abilities with the Initial Operating Capability (IOC) expected in 2026.
by Andrew Drwiega