Australia can expect delivery of its first Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in 2023, and of the second and third aircraft by early 2025, Northrop Grumman Australia Chief Executive Chris Deeble has disclosed.
Deeble told Janes on 3 July that all three platforms are part of low-rate initial production (LRIP) ‘lot five’, as detailed on 25 June by the US Navy (USN), which is the contracting party on a USD333.4 million contract awarded to Northrop Grumman for the three UAVs, two main operating bases, and one forward operating base in an integrated functional capability-four (IFC-4) and multiple intelligence configuration.
IFC-4 functionality will add a signals intelligence capability to the UAV’s baseline IFC-3 configuration.
The production pause proposed in draft US budget papers for USN Triton UAVs in fiscal year 2021 (FY 2021) and FY 2022 provides Australia with an unprecedented opportunity to fill the LRIP-5 production gap with the remainder of its own Triton requirement, said Deeble.
“We continue to work with the US Navy, US Congress, the Australian government, and the Royal Australian Air Force [RAAF] to identify solutions to prevent a pause in Triton production.
“While options for production and delivery are still being discussed, if Australia commits to an additional four aircraft, we anticipate delivery of the last aircraft in 2026,” he added.
Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper forecast a requirement for seven Tritons under Project Air 7000 Phase 1B to supplement the RAAF’s manned Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft.