Australia has announced plans to boost its maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities with the planned acquisition of a fourth high-altitude long endurance (HALE)-class Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) along with upgrades to its Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) fleet.
“The Albanese Government is taking steps to ensure Australia has one of the most advanced maritime patrol and response aircraft fleets in the world,” said the Australian Department of Defence (DoD), noting that the estimated cumulative value of these acquisitions will cost over A$1.5 billion.
The MQ-4C Triton UAVs are being developed and acquired by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in collaboration with the US Navy and will provide persistent, long-range surveillance over Australia’s vast maritime interests. The first air vehicle, including associated ground and support systems, is expected to be delivered in 2024.
The Tritons will be based at RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory once the type enters service and will be operated by the newly reformed Number 9 Squadron located at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia.
In addition, the DoD has signed of an Interim Sustainment Support Contract with Northrop Grumman Australia valued at A$220 million aimed at growing the Triton maintenance workforce at RAAF Base Tindal and RAAF Base Edinburgh.
“The purchase of an additional Triton will enhance operations from Australia’s northern bases, a priority under the Defence Strategic Review,” said Pat Conroy, Minister for Defence Industry.
Meanwhile, the DoD said the upgrade of the 14 P-8As will enhance the ADF’s anti-submarine warfare (ASW), maritime strike, and intelligence collection capabilities, with the first aircraft slated to commence upgrade work in 2026 and the last in 2030.
The ADF will work with Boeing Defence Australia to install the new Poseidon capabilities locally to increase Australian industry opportunities.
“The upgrades to the fleet of Poseidon aircraft strengthens our ability to secure and protect Australia’s maritime interests,” said Conroy.
by Jr Ng