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Australia’s first Triton unmanned aircraft touches down on home soil

The first Royal Australian Air Force MQ-4C Triton Remotely Piloted Aircraft System arrives in its new hangar at RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory. Photo: SGT Andrew Eddie

Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton remotely piloted aircraft system has arrived on home soil in the Northern Territory.

Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton remotely piloted aircraft system has arrived on home soil in the Northern Territory.

The MQ-4C Triton high altitude, long endurance, remotely piloted aircraft system arrived at RAAF Base Tindal in the Top End on 16 June after travelling from the US.

Maintenance staff were on-site during the landing and following transfer to hangar to perform post-flight checks of the aircraft.


The aircraft, designated AUS1, is expected to provide the Australian Defence Force with long-range, persistent surveillance across the Australia’s maritime approaches and its broader areas of interest.

“The MQ-4C Triton fleet will be based at RAAF Base Tindal, in the Northern Territory and operated by Royal Australian Air Force aircrew of the reformed Number 9 squadron at RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia,” a Defence statement said.

“Once in service the MQ-4C Triton and P-8A Poseidon aircraft will operate as a ‘family of systems’ to provide Defence’s Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability.

“Defence will continue to work with industry to support our workforces, to deliver the priorities and capabilities our nation requires to protect Australia and its national interests.”

Earlier this month it was announced that the MQ-4C Triton would arrive following successful delivery and installation of its ground support systems.

The aircraft was flown by project industry partner Northrop Grumman, making an initial journey from Palmdale, California, to Patuxent River, Maryland, in the US. There it was handed over to the United States Navy (USN) for final testing, fitout, and certification prior to embarking on its final journey to Australia.

Group Captain Andrew Leahy, director – Future Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems Program Office in Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG), said project milestones have been delivered at pace to ensure Air Force is ready to receive and operate the Triton.

“These events form part of a complex series of processes, systems, and technologies that have been integrated in preparation for AUS 1’s arrival on home soil, and in support of the additional aircraft that will be delivered to complete the RAAF MQ-4C Triton fleet,” GPCAPT Leahy said.

“In January this year, the ‘Trailerised’ Forward Operating Base, which is the initial ground ‘Mission Control Station’ for the MQ-4C Triton, was successfully delivered to RAAF Base Tindal, Northern Territory – representing another significant milestone for the project.”

Head of Air Force Capability, Air Vice-Marshal Wendy Blyth, said Australia is acquiring four MQ-4C Triton aircraft and associated ground support systems through a cooperative program with the USN, in collaboration with the manufacturer of the Triton, Northrop Grumman, which includes training.

“RAAF MQ-4C Triton aircrew have undertaken extensive training by the USN at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida,” AVM Blyth said.

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