RAAF readies for Triton UAV operations

Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton UAV
Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton UAV

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has reactivated 9 Squadron on 11 June to prepare for the delivery of the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton high-altitude long endurance (HALE) uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV).

According to the RAAF, 9 Squadron was initially formed in 1939 and active service during World War 2 in the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian and Pacific Oceans, receiving 12 battle honours. It was stood down in 1944 and reformed on 11 June 1962 as a helicopter squadron during the Vietnam War, subsequently disbanding again in 1989.

The newly reformed 9 Squadron will be part of 92 Wing Surveillance and Response Group, based at RAAF Base Edinburgh although most Triton operations will be performed out of RAAF Base Tindal.

“9 Squadron has played an incredibly important role in the [RAAF], serving during critical times for Australia’s security,” said Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Rob Chipman. “I’m proud to see the squadron return to service in 2023.”

Officer Commanding 92 Wing Group Captain Paul Carpenter noted that the MQ-4C Triton represented a fundamental change in the way the RAAF applies airpower.

“Uncrewed aerial systems offer enormous potential to capitalise on the opportunities provided by modern payloads and increased endurance,” Group Captain Carpenter said. “This will deliver unprecedented persistence and awareness over the maritime domain in support of the Integrated Force.”

The first RAAF Triton system is expected to be delivered along with its ground and support systems in mid-2024. The air vehicle is currently under advanced stages of development and systems integration at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale facility. The service’s second and third air vehicles on order are currently in various stages of construction.

According to Northrop Grumman, the MQ-4C Triton builds on the capabilities of the RQ-4 Block 40 Global Hawk HALE UAV but has been optimised for long-range maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations. The company claims a mission radius of 2,000 nautical miles and an endurance of at least 24 hours.

by Jr Ng