Northrop Grumman has commenced the construction process for Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton, an unmanned maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft.

The ceremony was attended by speakers from the Government of Australia, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), US Congress, US Navy and Northrop Grumman.

RAAF’s air attaché to the Australian embassy Air Commodore Terry van Haren said: “The MQ-4C Triton will be a very important ISR capability for Australia.

“It is ideally suited for Australian operating conditions, given its high altitude, long endurance, and impressive sensor suite. The Royal Australian Air Force looks forward to operating the MQ-4C alongside its other ISR and response aircraft such as the P8A Poseidon.”

In June 2018, the Australian Government planned purchase the first of six MQ-4C Triton via a cooperative programme with the US Navy as part of a $1.4bn investment intended to strengthen Australia’s maritime capabilities.

The MQ-4C is being developed under a cooperative programme between the RAAF and the US Navy.

The aircraft can operate at altitudes of up to 55,000ft and can cover over one million square miles of ocean and littorals in one flight.

Northrop Grumman Triton programmes vice-president Doug Shaffer said: “As a strategic partner in the cooperative development programme, Australia is a critical part of Triton’s development and production.

“This game-changing system will boost Australia’s ISR capability and enable them to meet their surveillance needs to manage the world’s third largest exclusive economic zone.”

In 2018, Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton was officially welcomed into the US Navy fleet, marking the beginning of its flight operations.