The first deployment of Northrop Grumman's MQ-4C Triton maritime patrol unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will be to the Andersen Air Force Base (AFB) in Guam in 2018, a year later than previously announced by the US Navy (USN). It will occur as part of an early operational capability deployment.
The aircraft to be deployed will be the low-rate initial production (LRIP) Tritons ordered under a USD255.3 million contract awarded after the system passed Milestone C approval in September 2016. LRIP 2 is yet to be awarded but it is likely to be for three aircraft, according to Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) solicitation of 2015.
The aircraft is a maritime version of the Global Hawk UAV with an altered wing to make it more able to change altitude and a new suite of sensors for the over-water role. However, basic architecture remains the same.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is in line to take on seven of the aircraft and Northrop Grumman's Triton representative in Australia, Gregory Black, said "there is technical services case between the countries to keep [Australia] informed".
Black said the Triton's role remained as a "coastal and maritime surveillance platform" and was coy about how the platform might be used, with sensor changes, for land surveillance as the Global Hawk is.
"The aircraft is constructed with the future in mind and would be possible for an overland role," he said.
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