Australia investing AU$1.4b in MQ-4C Triton UAS acquisition

The Australian government announced it is investing AU$1.4 billion in the acquisition of six MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush, Australia PM Malcolm Turnbull, Australian defense minister Marise Payne, Australian defense industry minister Christopher Pyne and Australia’s Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Leo Davies AO. Photo: Australian defense ministry

The UAS will be acquired through a cooperative program with the US Navy.

Australia is buying the UAS to complement the surveillance role of the P-8A Poseidon aircraft through sustained operations at long ranges as well as being able to undertake a range of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks.

A $200 million cooperative program between Australia and the US Navy for the development, production and sustainment of the MQ-4C Triton will also be initiated.

As part of the initial $1.4 billion investment in the Triton system, the government will invest $364 million on new facilities at RAAF Base Edinburgh and RAAF Base Tindal, as well the necessary ground control systems, support and training required to implement a project of this nature.

The project is expected to create about 70 jobs across South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Northrop Grumman as supplier of the Triton will play a lead role in delivering the capability in Australia. This investment follows Northrop’s commitment to a $50 million advanced Electronic Sustainment Centre of Excellence at the new Western Sydney Airport.

Australia has already taken delivery of seven Poseidon aircraft and achieved initial operational capability earlier this year. The full fleet of 12 Poseidon aircraft is expected to be delivered and in operation by 2022.

The first of the Triton aircraft is expected to be introduced into service in mid-2023 with all six aircraft planned to be delivered and in operation by late 2025, based at RAAF Base, Edinburgh in South Australia.

The current fleet of Orion aircraft will be withdrawn from service in 2023 when the last of these aircraft will be over 40 years old.