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Australia approves fourth MQ-4C procurement, P-8A upgrade

Australia has envisaged procuring at least six Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Tritons. (Northrop Grumman/Commonwealth of Australia)

The Australian government is enhancing its maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities by approving the acquisition of a fourth Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) and upgrades to its Boeing P-8A ‘Poseidon' maritime aircraft fleet.

“The estimated combined value of these decisions is over AUD1.5 billion [USD965.5 million],” the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) said. Janes earlier reported that the Tritons are slated to replace the two Lockheed AP‐3C Orions in service with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The upgrade of Australia's fleet of 14 P-8As will enhance anti-submarine warfare (ASW), maritime strike, and intelligence collection capabilities, the DoD said.

“The purchase of an additional Triton will enhance operations from Australia's northern bases, a priority under the Defence Strategic Review,” Australia's Minister for Defence Industry, Pat Conroy, said. “The upgrades to the fleet of Poseidon aircraft strengthens our ability to secure and protect Australia's maritime interests.”

The DoD said it expects the first Poseidon aircraft to enter the upgrade programme in 2026. The upgrade of the final aircraft will be completed in 2030. “The ADF [Australian Defence Force] will work with Boeing Defence Australia on options for domestic installation of the new Poseidon capabilities, increasing Australian industry opportunities,” the DoD added.

“In addition, the signing of an Interim Sustainment Support Contract with Northrop Grumman Australia valued at AUD220 million will establish a strong maintenance workforce at RAAF Base Tindal and RAAF Base Edinburgh for the fleet of Triton aircraft,” the DoD added.

Janes earlier reported that the MQ-4C fleet will be based at RAAF Base Tindal and operated by the RAAF's newly reformed No 9 Squadron, located at RAAF Base Edinburgh.

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