Australia to get first Triton in 2023

The Royal Australian Air Force is slated to take delivery of the first of six Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance drones in 2023, a senior official said Tuesday at the Avalon Airshow.

The director of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic warfare at Air Force Headquarters in Canberra, Group Capt. Jason Lind,  said the country has allocated AU$1.4 billion (U.S. $1 billion) for the acquisition of the aircraft and ground control systems. It’s expected the total spent over the life of the program will fall between AU$3 billion and AU$4 billion.

Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper forecast the requirement for seven Triton drones under Project Air 7000 Phase 1B to supplement the manned Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft with the Air Force’s Surveillance and Response Group. A decision to acquire six aircraft was announced by Defence Minister Christopher Pyne on June 26, representing Gate 2 (Second Pass) approval. A decision on the seventh aircraft will be made at a later date.

Australia is acquiring the multiple intelligence gathering version of the Triton, and the Gate 2 decision saw the firm order for the first aircraft, with the others to be added as milestones are achieved and as the variant matures in service with the U.S. Navy.