The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has formally approved the US$333 million Australian acquisition of three low-rate initial production, Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned ISR aircraft.
The US$333 million is part of a "previously-awarded fixed-price-incentive-firm-target contract", which will support Australia's purchase of three low-rate initial production, Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton aircraft, two main operating bases and one forward operating base in an integrated functional capability-four and multiple-intelligence configuration.
The DSCA stated that work is expected to be completed by April 2025, which is in line with the timeline for delivery established in the 2016 Defence White Paper.
This decision comes shortly after the decision was announced by Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, who said, "Once in service, this capability will significantly enhance our ability to persistently patrol Australia’s maritime approaches from the north, in the south-west Pacific and down to Antarctica."
Australia's 2016 Defence White Paper explained the importance of the Triton platform as it fits within the Australian Defence Force:
"To complement the surveillance capabilities of the [P-8A] Poseidon, the government will acquire seven high altitude MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft from the early 2020s … The Triton is an unarmed, long-range, remotely piloted aircraft that will operate in our maritime environment, providing a persistent maritime patrol capability and undertaking other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks."
"The fleet is being developed and purchased through a Cooperative Program with the US Navy. This program 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," Minister Reynolds explained recently.
Remotely flying out of RAAF Edinburgh, South Australia, the Tritons are capable of monitoring 40,000 square kilometres a day and seamlessly flying a round trip for sustained surveillance and in support of allied freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea from the Northern Territory – increasing Australia’s interoperability with key allies, particularly the US.
The Triton is designed to operate in conjunction with Australia’s planned fleet of 12 manned P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft.
The nation's Tritons provide a quantum leap in the nation’s surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, while the facilities and crew required to operate, train and maintain will be part of the initial $1.4 billion investment, which includes $364 million on new facilities at RAAF Bases Edinburgh and Tindal (in NT).
Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system (UAS) provides real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance over vast ocean and coastal regions.
Based on the proven Global Hawk UAS, Triton’s autonomous operations are supported by land-based command and control mission planners and sensor operators. Triton will be equipped with a unique and robust mission sensor suite that provides 360-degree coverage on all sensors, providing unprecedented maritime domain awareness for the US Navy.