The Australian Government is planning to procure the Northrop Grumman-built MQ-4C Triton unmanned surveillance system, upon successful completion of the US Navy development programme currently underway.
Capable of patrolling Australia’s vast ocean approaches, the aircraft will work closely with other existing and future Australian Defence Force assets to protect ocean resources off northern Australia, and help to protect borders.
Operating at altitudes of up to 55,000ft over extremely long ranges while remaining airborne for up to 33 hours, the Triton aircraft will offer unprecedented maritime surveillance capabilities to the Australian Defence Force.
The MQ-4C Triton UAVs, which are scheduled to be based in Adelaide providing significant economic benefits to South Australia, provides real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) over vast ocean and coastal regions.
The acquisition of the unmanned systems will require approximately $140m of new facilities and infrastructure, while significantly expanding and enhancing existing facilities and infrastructure at RAAF Base Edinburgh.
Based on the defence white paper, the government will further consider the total number of Triton UAVs to be acquired and their date of service deployments in 2016.
The 14.5m-long UAS is equipped with 360° field of regard (FOR) sensors including multifunction active sensor (MFAS) electronically steered array radar, electro-optical / infrared (EO/IR) sensor, automatic identification system (AIS) receiver and electronic support measures (ESM).
Separately, the Australian Government awarded a contract that includes $78m in work for BAE, as part of a five-year task order with Boeing Defence Australia for the sustainment of the Royal Australian Air Force’s E-7A Wedgetail aircraft.
The main contract, which will now run until June 2019, includes engineering and maintenance support, repairs, spare parts and aircrew and maintenance training for the Wedgetail fleet.
Image: A US Navy’s Triton unmanned aircraft during its flight in the Middle East. Photo: courtesy of Northrop Grumman.