The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has announced that Northrop Grumman will be awarded a sole source contract modification for the production and support of Australia’s second MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft.
“The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), NAS Patuxent River, MD, on behalf of its international cooperative partner, The Government of Australia, intends to issue a sole source contract modification to Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation (NGSC), San Diego, CA for the production and support of additional MQ-4C Triton aircraft and related assets”, said a presolicitation notice published on beta.sam.gov.
Australia is planning to procure at least six Triton aircraft from the U.S. through a cooperative program with the U.S. Navy. The Triton buy is part of the Australian Defence Force (ADF)’s Project Air 7000 program to replace its Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)’s AP-3C Orion aircraft.
In March last year, it was announced that the Australian Government approved the purchase of the second MQ-4C Triton for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton is a high altitude long endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft that are used for maritime patrol and other surveillance roles. The Triton builds on elements of the RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance aircraft, with reinforcements to the airframe and wing.
The MQ-4C can fly at altitudes of 55,000 feet for 24 hours at a time and is equipped with sensors that provide high-resolution imagery and near real-time video. The sensor suite can provide a 360-degree view of its surroundings for over 2000 nautical miles. The aircraft has de-icing and lightning protection systems, which allow it to descend through cloud layers and gain a closer view of ships and other targets at sea.
Pilots and sensor operators fly the Triton from ground stations, which can command flights all over the world.
Australia’s MQ-4Cs will be operated by the RAAF and will complement the surveillance role of the RAAF’s P-8A Poseidon manned maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) through sustained operations at long ranges as well as being able to undertake a range of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) tasks.
Together these aircraft will significantly enhance Australia’s anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and maritime strike capability, as well as search and rescue (SAR) capability.
The first of the Triton remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) is expected to be introduced into service in mid-2023 with all six aircraft planned to be delivered and in operation by late 2025, based at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia.