Northrop Grumman has announced it has joined the wing and fuselage of the first MQ-4C Triton uncrewed high-altitude long-endurance maritime surveillance system for the Royal Australian Air Force.
The two major components were joined at Northrop Grumman’s manufacturing facility at the USAF Plant 42 at Palmdale in California. Production of the air vehicle commenced at the company’s Moss Point facility in Mississippi in late 2020, before the components came together at Palmdale for final assembly.
“This production milestone further demonstrates our commitment to both sides of the cooperative program between the Royal Australian Air Force and the U.S. Navy,” Northrop Grumman’s Triton program manager, Rho Cauley-Bruner said in a release. “We are on schedule to deliver Triton’s powerful capability in support of Australia’s national security.”
The US Navy’s Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Manager, Capt Josh Guerre added, “This important milestone highlights the successful partnership between our two great nations, and reflects the collaborative work between industry and government in delivering this strategic capability to our Australian mates.”
The US Navy has had two Tritons based on Guam since early 2020 as part of an early operational capability of baseline IFC3-configured systems, and they have been flying regular missions over the region in support of US Navy surface vessel movements using their radar and optical sensors. One of these recently returned to NAS Jacksonville in Florida as US Navy air vehicle operators from the VUP-19 operating unit are trained on the latest IFC4 configuration which includes the Multi-Int signals intelligence (SIGINT) sensor.
Australia has so far ordered three Tritons from a requirement of six or seven systems. It is expected the first two systems will initially be based from 2023 at Anderson AFB on Guam in the western Pacific alongside US Navy Tritons, while delayed base works at RAAF Tindal in the Northern Territory and RAAF Edinburgh near Adelaide are completed. All of the RAAF’s Tritons will be delivered in an IFC4 configuration.
“The Air Force is pleased with the continuing progress of our first Triton and the ongoing strong relationships we enjoy within the Cooperative Program with the US Navy and with the manufacturer of the Triton, Northrop Grumman Corporation” the RAAF’s Director, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare GPCAPT Jason Lind said.
“I am looking forward to seeing our first Triton roll off the production line and then commence flying in Australian skies in 2024,” he added. “This capability will extend Australia’s ability to see and understand our maritime approaches to the north and also as far south as Antarctica.”