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Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton hits new production milestone

Australian MQ-4C Triton HALE RPAS
Photo: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman announced it had recently completed a new milestone in the production of Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton aircraft when the fuselage was mounted onto Triton’s one-piece wing.

The mating of the fuselage and wing is the latest milestone in Australia’s program to acquire three MQ-4C high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) aircraft.

Northrop Grumman officially started work on Australia’s first Triton in October 2020, and is expected to complete by 2023. First flights in Australian skies are tentatively set for 2024.

Once completed and delivered, Triton’s payload and endurance will provide the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) with the ability to detect and analyze threats that were previously undetectable.

“This production milestone further demonstrates our commitment to both sides of the cooperative program between the Royal Australian Air Force and the US Navy,” said Rho Cauley-Bruner, Triton program manager, Northrop Grumman.

Australia’s first Triton is on track to be delivered just as the US Navy expects to achieve initial operating capability with their multi-intelligence Tritons, the same configuration Australia is receiving. The identical capabilities will allow the RAAF and US Navy to share data and maintain an unblinking autonomous intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting capability over some of the world’s most critical maritime regions.

“The Air Force is pleased with the continuing progress of our first Triton and the ongoing strong relationships we enjoy within the Cooperative Program with the US Navy and with the manufacturer of the Triton, Northrop Grumman Corporation” said Group Captain Jason Lind, Director, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare, Australian Air Force Headquarters. “I am looking forward to seeing our first Triton roll off the production line and then commence flying in Australian skies in 2024. This capability will extend Australia’s ability to see and understand our maritime approaches to the north and also as far south as Antarctica.”

Australia is buying a total of three Tritons, having placed orders for the first two units in 2019 and the third one in 2020. The country has a requirement for six Tritons for the Royal Australian Air Force to be delivered as part of the Air 7000 Phase 1B project.