Australia is to acquire six Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton maritime unmanned aerial systems (MUAS) at a cost of just over $1 billion, said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The first one will enter service in 2023.
The initial operating capability (IOC) is planned to follow 12 months later, and a full operational capability (FOC) of all six systems is scheduled for mid-2025, reported the Australian Aviation.
Tuesday’s initial $1.4 billion program announcement covers the first of the six planned aircraft. These will be based at RAAF Base Edinburgh near Adelaide and will include $364 million for the construction of new operational and support facilities at Edinburgh plus RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory, as well as an initial ground support equipment, training and spares package.
Australia has also acquired Boeing P-8A manned maritime patrol aircraft and, like the U.S. Navy, plans to cooperatively operate them with the Tritons. The high-altitude, long-endurance UAVs will survey larger areas with their radars and EO/IR sensors, to cue the P-8A.
“The Triton will complement the surveillance role of the P-8A Poseidon aircraft through sustained operations at long ranges as well as being able to undertake a range of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks,” Australian Aviation quoted a joint statement by Prime Minister Turnbull, Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne and Defence Industry Christopher Pyne. “Together these aircraft will significantly enhance our anti-submarine warfare and maritime strike capability, as well as our search and rescue capability.”
Follow-on contract and production of the remaining five systems and the preferred in-service sustainment provider are expected to follow by mid-2019.