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Australia is enhancing its UAV fleet. The first of six MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance drones will be supplied to the Royal Australian Air Force in 2023. Australia has allocated AU$1.4 billion (U.S. $1 billion) for the acquisition of the aircraft and ground control systems.
The Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton is an American high-altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which provides real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) over vast ocean and coastal regions. 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 U.S. Navy, according to the company’s website.
Australia is acquiring the multiple intelligence gathering version of the Triton, and the Gate 2 decision saw the firm order for the first aircraft, with the others to be added as milestones are achieved and as the variant matures in service with the U.S. Navy.
All aircraft are expected to be in service by mid-2025, according to defensenews.com.
Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper forecast the requirement for seven Triton drones under Project Air 7000 Phase 1B to supplement the manned Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft with the Air Force’s Surveillance and Response Group.
Group Capt. Jason Lind, the director of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic warfare at Air Force Headquarters in Canberra, said Australia has entered into a cooperative development program with the U.S. Navy to further develop the Triton. He said the program will leverage experience gained through a similar cooperative program currently in place for the P-8A.