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RAAF MQ-4C Triton makes maiden flight

Northrop Grumman has successfully completed the first flight of Australia’s multi-intelligence MQ-4C Triton uncrewed aircraft at its Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center in California. The flight marks a major production milestone as Northrop Grumman progresses toward delivery of Australia’s first Triton in 2024.

Built for the US Navy and Royal Australian Air Force, the MQ-4C Triton is the only uncrewed, high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft performing persistent maritime intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting. The US Navy declared initial operating capability (IOC) of its fleet of MQ-4C Tritons in August.

“Triton expands Australia’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability by providing reliable real-time intelligence and situational awareness,” said Air Marshal Robert Chipman, Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force. “Persistent surveillance enables better planning, greatly enhancing joint military responses and operations.”

“We are leveraging our deep expertise in uncrewed high-altitude long endurance aircraft to enable Australia to establish a superior long range maritime surveillance capability to monitor and protect Australia’s maritime interests 24/7,” said Christine Zeitz, chief executive and general manager Australia & New Zealand, Northrop Grumman.

In September, the Australian government announced the purchase of a fourth aircraft that will enhance the resilience of the RAAF fleet and provide superior surveillance capability to monitor and protect Australia’s maritime interests 24/7.

Australia’s role in the Triton cooperative program was critical to shaping its system requirements, the company says. Together, US and Australian defence forces will be able to share data collected by their respective Tritons, a critical ability in one of the world’s most strategically important regions.

Australia’s security challenges run the spectrum of humanitarian and disaster relief to maritime monitoring of the vital sea lanes in the Indo-Pacific. With all four Australian Tritons currently under contract progressing as planned through their production schedules, the systems will have a vital role to play with sensors and communication nodes that can facilitate the transfer of data across warfighting domains and various mission needs.

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