Northrop Grumman: Construction starts on Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton aircraft

Aerospace and defence technology company Northrop Grumman has started construction on Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton, an unmanned maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft. 

Northrop Grumman

In a ceremony broadcast to a virtual audience, speakers from the Australian Government, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), U.S. Congress, U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman emphasized the significance of this event.

Northrop Grumman initiates build of Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton aircraft. Photo: Northrop Grumman

“The MQ-4C Triton will be a very important ISR capability for Australia,” Air Commodore Terry van Haren, the RAAF’s air attaché to the Australian embassy, said.

“It is ideally suited for Australian operating conditions, given its high altitude, long endurance, and … sensor suite. The Royal Australian Air Force looks forward to operating the MQ-4C alongside its other ISR and response aircraft such as the P8A Poseidon.”

“With much of our team working remotely, geographically dispersed, and across many time zones, I am so impressed with the continued productivity I have seen and the great work being done. Our partnership near and far remains strong as we prepare to deliver the first Triton aircraft to Australia in 2023,” Capt. Dan Mackin, the U.S. Navy’s Triton program director, commented.

“As a strategic partner in the cooperative development program, Australia is a critical part of Triton’s development and production,” Doug Shaffer, vice president, Triton programs, Northrop Grumman, said.

“This game-changing system will boost Australia’s ISR capability and enable them to meet their surveillance needs to manage the world’s third largest exclusive economic zone.”

Northrop Grumman

The MQ-4C is a cooperative development program between the Royal Australian Air Force and the U.S. Navy, and provides a round-the-clock maritime wide-area ISR.

Operating at altitudes exceeding 50,000 feet, Triton can cover more than one million square miles, or two and a half million square kilometers, of ocean and littorals in a single flight.

MQ-4C Triton UAS acquisition

Back in 2018, the Australian government decided to invest AU$1.4 billion in the acquisition of six MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

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Australia is acquiring the Tritons through a cooperative program with the United States Navy. The MQ-4C is being acquired to complement Poseidon P-8A maritime patrol aircraft operations.

All six planned Tritons are expected to be delivered by late 2025.