The Australian Government is set to purchase the first of six MQ-4C Triton remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) via a cooperative programme with the US Navy as part of a $1.4bn investment intended to strengthen Australia’s maritime capabilities.
The Triton unmanned aircraft system (UAS) is expected to support the surveillance activities of Australia’s P-8A Poseidon military aircraft through sustained operations at long ranges.
It will also be capable of carrying out a wide range of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) tasks in order to enhance the security of the country’s maritime borders.
Both Triton and Poseidon are expected to assist Australia in improving its anti-submarine warfare, maritime strike, and search and rescue capabilities as part of the initiative.
The $1.4bn investment will see the Government of Australia enter a $200m cooperative programme with the US Navy for the development, manufacture and sustainment of the MQ-4C RPAs.
The project will support the country’s commitment to developing advanced capabilities and conducting joint military operations.
In addition, the government will invest $364m on new facilities at Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Edinburgh and RAAF Base Tindal, in addition to delivering necessary ground control systems and providing the required support and training services.
The project is expected to generate approximately 70 jobs across South Australia and the Northern Territory.
The first MQ-4C Triton UAS will be operated by RAAF and is currently scheduled to be launched in mid-2023.
All six of the aircraft will be based at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia. They are planned to be operational by late-2025.
The Triton RPA is based on the legacy Global Hawk UAS.
It is integrated with a reinforced airframe for increased internal payload, as well as highly durable wings for improved hail, bird strike and gust load protection.
The Triton UAS units are also equipped with de-icing and lightning protection systems.