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Australia boosts maritime surveillance fleet with another Triton RPAS

Photo: Northrop Grumman

The Australian government has committed to an AUD 1.5 billion ($964.88 million) agreement involving the acquisition of a new MQ-4C Triton drone and the modernization of existing patrol and response aircraft.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Pat Conroy, the Minister for Defence Industry, announced the military’s intention to procure a fourth MQ-4C Triton drone and enhance the current fleet of 14 P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft through upgrades.

The MQ-4C Triton remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS), a collaborative endeavor between the Australian Defence Force and the US Navy, is manufactured by the Northrop Grumman Corporation. Just last week, the US Navy marked a milestone by officially declaring the initial operating capability (IOC) of the multi-intelligence MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft.

Australia ordered its first three high altitude long endurance (HALE) Triton aircraft in 2019 and 2020, with plans for a total of seven, but none have been delivered yet. The fourth HALE aircraft is expected in 2024.

Once operational, the Triton aircraft will find their home at RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory, under the operational oversight of the recently restructured Number 9 Squadron, stationed at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia.

Australia’s existing fleet of Boeing P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol and Response aircraft is set to undergo extensive upgrades, aimed at enhancing anti-submarine warfare, maritime strike, and intelligence collection capabilities. The first aircraft will enter the upgrade program in 2026, with the final aircraft expected to complete the process in 2030.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) will collaborate with Boeing Defence Australia to explore options for the domestic installation of the new Poseidon capabilities, creating opportunities for the Australian industry.

Additionally, an interim sustainment support contract valued at $220 million has been signed with Northrop Grumman Australia, which will establish a maintenance workforce at RAAF Base Tindal and RAAF Base Edinburgh to support the Triton aircraft fleet.