Australia’s maritime approaches will be further strengthened with the purchase of an additional Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton Remotely Piloted Aircraft System, bringing Australia’s Triton fleet to three of the planned six to seven aircraft and associated mission control stations. The MQ-4C Triton is a cooperative development programme between the Royal Australian Air Force and the US Navy, and provides a round-the-clock maritime wide-area intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability. Operating at altitudes exceeding 50,000 feet, Triton can cover more than five million square kilometres of ocean and littorals in a single flight, bringing unprecedented battle space awareness to operational commanders.

In addition to the aircraft, Australia has also committed funds for the main operating base at RAAF Edinburgh in South Australia and a forward operating base at RAAF Tindal in the Northern Territory. The main operating base allows for a permanent control station while the forward operating base enables deployment of the Triton system to support Australian national security requirements. The US Navy – with a programme of record for 68 aircraft – is planning five operational Triton orbits around the globe. Australia, as one of the United States’ key allies and a strategic partner in the Pacific, would be able to provide a sixth.

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds. (PHOTO: Government File Photo)

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the Triton acquisition is an important part of protecting Australia’s borders and making the region more secure. Once in service, this capability will significantly enhance our ability to persistently patrol Australia’s maritime approaches from the North, in the southwest Pacific and down to Antarctica,” Reynolds said. The fleet is being developed and purchased through a cooperative programme with the US Navy. This programme strengthens our ability to develop advanced maritime surveillance capability and ensure our capabilities remain complementary with our security partners, while sharing in the benefits of their technical expertise and project costs.”

The project provides significant opportunities for Australian defence industry including the construction of facilities in South Australia and the Northern Territory, software integration, engineering, logistics, and manufacturing of components. “Over A$475 million is set to be spent locally, with several Australian companies already completing Triton production work for Northrop Grumman Corporation,” Reynolds said.

Chris Deeble,, CEOo of Northrop Grumman Australia.

“Triton will bring an incredible maritime surveillance capability to Australia’s whole-of-government security efforts,” said Chris Deeble, chief executive, Northrop Grumman Australia. “Triton’s persistence and range will enable not only unprecedented maritime domain awareness, but also seamless surveillance integration with our US allies in the collective effort to preserve regional security and stability.”

The Triton and P-8A Poseidon capabilities will operate in a complementary way to deliver a comprehensive Maritime Patrol and Response capability. Australia’s 12th Poseidon aircraft was delivered in December 2019. The Poseidon aircraft have since been deployed on several overseas operations and have performed well. Triton and Poseidon will also provide support to national security response activities, both domestically and abroad.

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