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Australia MQ-4 Triton programme achieves new production milestone

Northrop Grumman announced on 16 December a new production milestone for the RAAF's MQ-4C HALE UAV programme when the aircraft fuselage was mounted on the one-piece wing (shown here). (Northrop Grumman Corporation)

Northrop Grumman successfully joined the aircraft fuselage and the one-piece wing of the first MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs) for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), the company announced on 16 December.

Northrop Grumman said the first of three UAVs under contract for the RAAF is on schedule to be delivered in 2024 in the same configuration that the US Navy (USN) is receiving.

“This production milestone further demonstrates our commitment to both sides of the co-operative programme between the Royal Australian Air Force and the US Navy,” said Rho Cauley-Bruner, Triton programme manager at Northrop Grumman.

Assembly of the first RAAF MQ-4C started in October 2020 at Northrop Grumman's Moss Point facility in Mississippi. Final assembly and flight testing will follow at the company's Palmdale facility and at Edwards AFB in California.

However, the first MQ-4C will not reach Australia before 2024 due to delays in infrastructure works at the Triton's main operating base for the ground segment at RAAF Edinburgh near Adelaide, and at the UAVs' forward operating base at RAAF Tindal, in Australia's Northern Territory, Northrop Grumman Australia's chief executive, Chris Deeble, disclosed in May 2021.

Infrastructure works are expected to begin in mid-2022 and be completed in 2024. The RAAF expects to receive its first Triton ground control station in early 2022, with acceptance of all three UAVs expected by late 2025, when the system is scheduled to achieve full operational capability with the RAAF.

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