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Australian MQ-4C Triton completes first flight

Northrop Grumman Corporation has announced the successful completion of the first flight of Australia’s MQ-4C Triton uncrewed aircraft, which took place on 9 November at the Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center in California.

The flight is a significant production milestone, as Northrop Grumman moves closer to delivering Australia’s first Triton in 2024.

Designed for both the US Navy and Royal Australian Air Force, the MQ-4C Triton is the only uncrewed, high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft that performs persistent maritime intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting.

Christine Zeitz, chief executive and general manager Australia & New Zealand, Northrop Grumman: “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.”

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

The first flight took place at 11:56 a.m. PST and lasted approximately 6 hours and 24 minutes. During the flight, airworthiness evaluations, such as engine, flight control and fuel system checks, and basic aircraft handling tests were conducted.

In September, the Australian government announced the addition of a fourth aircraft to enhance its fleet’s resilience and provide superior surveillance capabilities 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 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 and progressing as planned through their production schedules, the systems will have a vital role to play. The sensors and communication nodes can facilitate the transfer of data across various mission needs and warfighting domains.

Neil Ritchie
Neil Ritchie
Neil Ritchie is the founder and editor of Neil is also the editor of other online publications covering military history, defence and security. He can be found on Twitter: @NeilRitchie86.

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