The Royal Australian Air Force is gearing up for the delivery of the first MQ-4C Triton (AUS 1) after the installation of ground support systems for the maritime surveillance remotely piloted aircraft system.

Australia is acquiring four MQ-4C aircraft through a cooperative agreement with the US Navy and Northrop Grumman, which manufactures the system. Construction on the system began in 2020, and in August 2023 Northrop Grumman won an additional contract to retrofit two MQ-4C for Australia for $83.1m (A$124.6m).

The aircraft will complement the Australian Defence Force’s P-8A Poseidon fleet to proves a ‘family of systems’ for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, according to a release from the Australian Ministry of Defence on 13 June 2024. 

“The MQ-4C Triton will deliver unprecedented persistence and awareness over the maritime domain in support of the Integrated Force,” said Air Vice-Marshal Blyth said. “Uncrewed aerial systems offer enormous potential to capitalise on the opportunities provided by modern payloads and increased endurance. This will significantly enhance our ability to persistently patrol Australia’s north and north-western approaches; in the south-west Pacific and south to Antarctica.”

The trailer-mounted forward operating base, which serves as a mission control station for the MQ-4C, arrived in Australia in January at RAAF base Tindal in the Northern Territory. 

In February 2024, AUS 1 made the first leg of its journey, flown by Northrop Grumman from California to Maryland to receive final testing, fit-out and certification, before it makes its journey to Australia.

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As a high-altitude, long endurance remotely piloted aircraft system, AUS 1 will provide long range, persistent surveillance, from its base at RAAF Final, an across Australia’s maritime approaches with RAAF’s 9 Squadron based in South Australia. 

Training for the MQ-4C is included in the arrangement between the RAAF and USN, with Triton Aircrew undertaking extensive training at US Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida. 

“These personnel received the same training as their USN counterparts and gained valuable experience to ensure that Air Force is able to deploy the MQ-4C Triton effectively,” said Australia’s Head of Air Force Capability, Air Vice-Marshal Wendy Blyth.