Australia boosts maritime patrol and drone capabilities with $1.5b defence acquisitions

Image credit: Northrop Grumman

Australian Defence has announced its plans to acquire a fourth MQ-4C Triton Remotely Piloted Aircraft System from Northrop Grumman, along with upgrades to the Air Force’s P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft fleet. 

The plans have an estimated combined value of over $1.5 billion. 

The MQ-4C Triton, acquired by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in cooperation with the US Navy, will provide long-range persistent surveillance across Australia’s maritime region. 

The first aircraft, including the relevant ground and support systems, is expected to be delivered to Australia in 2024. 

“The purchase of an additional Triton will enhance operations from Australia’s northern bases, a priority under the Defence Strategic Review,” said Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy. 

Slated to be based at RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory, the new Triton aircraft will be operated by the newly reformed Number 9 Squadron at RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia. 

Meanwhile, Australia’s fleet of 14 Boeing P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol and Response aircraft will be upgraded to enhance Defence’s anti-submarine warfare, maritime strike, and intelligence collection capabilities. 

The ADF will collaborate with Boeing Defence Australia on options for domestic installation of the new Poseidon capabilities, increasing Australian industry opportunities. 

The ADF also signed a $220 million Interim Sustainment Support Contract with Northrop Grumman Australia to establish a strong maintenance workforce at RAAF Base Tindal and RAAF Base Edinburgh for the fleet of Triton aircraft. 

Overall, the projects are expected to create 140 new high-skilled jobs in South Australia and the Northern Territory. 

About 40 of the jobs will be based in NT, with the remainder in SA. 

Throughout their service life, the P-8A Poseidon and MQ-4C Triton fleets are expected to contribute over $1.4 billion in acquisition and at least $6 billion in sustainment value to the Australian industry. 

“Australian industry can expect more work and opportunities to develop a highly skilled workforce through sustaining these aircraft, helping to ensure our Defence personnel have the capabilities they need to keep Australians safe,” said Minister Conroy.