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Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton RPAS breaks cover

RAAF MQ-4C Triton in California
Photo: Northrop Grumman

The Royal Australian Air Force’s first MQ-4C Triton remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) has made its first official appearance in RAAF livery.

The aircraft was rolled out on September 14 at Northrop Grumman’s Palmsdale, California, site, where the company is assembling a total of three Tritons. Australia ordered the first two units in 2019 and the third one in 2020.

Australia’s Head of Air Force Capability, Air Vice-Marshal Robert Denney, said the the RPAS built in partnership with Northrop and the US Navy would support intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance roles, as well as a broad range of joint effects.

“This partnership is pushing the boundaries of air power to pursue a truly advanced platform that will provide both a foundational capability and a growth path for future decades,” Air Vice-Marshal Denney said.

“Once in service, the remotely piloted high altitude long endurance aerial system will significantly enhance our ability to persistently patrol Australia’s north and north-western approaches, in the south-west Pacific and south to Antarctica.

“Triton will complement the surveillance role of the P-8A Poseidon by providing sustained operations at long ranges, and undertaking a range of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks.

“I look forward to exploring the ways in which Triton will enhance our defense capabilities in the future.”

“Defence will invest more than $900 million in Australian industry, including sustainment, ICT and facilities.”

The Australian defense ministry expects the first aircraft, of up to seven in total, to be completed and delivered to Australia in 2024.

Once delivered, the MQ-4C Tritons will be primarily based at RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory while being controlled from facilities at RAAF Base Edinburgh.

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.