Northrop Grumman formally unveiled Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton autonomous aircraft in Palmdale, California on 16 March 2023 (local time) – early this morning Australian time.
CAPTION: Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton unveiled at the Northrop Grumman facility in California. Screen-grab from video.
The event was attended by Australian and US government and defence officials and marked a “watershed moment in advancement of air power for Australia” according to Head of Air Force Capability Air Vice Marshall Robert Denney, who represented the RAAF at the rollout.
“The significance and importance of Triton to Australia’s intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities cannot be overstated,” Air Vice Marshall Denney said.
“While Triton is primarily designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, it will support a broad range of joint effects and fully integrate into our combat architecture.
“It will revolutionise the way The Australian Defence Force conducts operations with our partners and allies.”
Air Vice Marshall Denney said Australia was a proud partner in the Triton program and our imbedded personnel were already acquiring the knowledge and experience required to bring the aircraft back to Australia.
“In working together with our US Navy and industry partners in developing the capability of this aircraft, we are pushing the boundaries of air power and pursuing a truly advanced platform that will provide both a foundation of capability and a growth path for decades.”
MQ-4C Triton is a high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) remotely-piloted aircraft that will complement the P- 8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft acquired under Project AIR 7000 as a ‘family of systems’.
Triton aircraft will be home based at RAAF Base Tindal, with operations headquartered at RAAF Base Edinburgh.
9 Squadron, which was recently re-raised, will operate Triton.
Triton will be capable of supporting missions of longer than 24 hours while covering an area of more than one million square nautical miles – an area larger than Western Australia.
In a cooperative program with the United States Navy, Australia was intimately involved in the development, production, and sustainment of the Triton capability.
The first Australian MQ-4C, rolled out overnight, will be flown Downunder mid next year and is scheduled to reach initial operating capability in 2025-26.
The Australian government has approved the acquisition of three Triton aircraft and supporting systems, with the acquisition of further aircraft subject to future government consideration – however, the RAAF has long had plans to acquire seven of the aircraft, a point reiterated by Air Vice Marshall Denney during today’s ceremony.