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Australian MQ-4C Triton being prepared for maiden flight

Australia's acquisition of three MQ-4C Triton HALE UAS is linked to the retirement of the RAAF's Lockheed AP-3C Orion fleet, which is scheduled to take place in 2023. (Northrop Grumman)

The first of the three Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) ordered by Australia is being prepared for its first test flight in mid-2023.

The Australian Tritons are progressing to schedule, Northrop Grumman officials told Janes . “The flight of the first Australian Triton, ‘AUS1,' is expected to happen in the summer of 2023,” said Rho Cauley-Bruner, Triton programme manager.

“AUS1 is now in the test phase with the first flight scheduled to happen in [the third quarter] Q3 [of] this year. We anticipate delivery of that aircraft to Australia in mid-2024. [The] AUS2 wingmate occurred in January 2023 and that build is progressing to plan. AUS3 is in production in Moss Point, with a scheduled delivery to Palmdale, where it will be mated with its wing in April 2023,” Cauley-Bruner added.

Northrop Grumman is also working towards achieving initial operational capability (IOC) of its Integrated Functional Capability 4 (IFC-4) configuration being developed for the Triton programme.

The IFC-4 is an enhancement of the IFC-3 standard. The IFC-4 hardware and software enhance the Triton's signals intelligence (SIGINT) capability. “This feature will be added to Australia's Triton fleet as well,” Cauley-Bruner said.

However, Northrop Grumman added that the Australian Triton programme “is not directly tied” to the US Navy's programme milestones for the Triton and the IFC-4. “We work directly with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to determine their unique programme requirements to integrate production and delivery timelines with the US Navy's,” the company told Janes .

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