Australia to issue LOR for US Navy MQ-4C Triton UAV
The Australian Minister for Defence has announced that Australia is considering the US Navy’s MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) as part of the replacement programme for the Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C fleet.
The Australian government outlined plans in the 2013 Defence White Paper to replace the AP-3C fleet with P-8A Poseidon aircraft complemented by unmanned aircraft capable of undertaking broad area maritime surveillance and fleet overwatch.
On 16 May, the Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, and Minister for Defence Materiel, Dr Mike Kelly, announced that the Australian government would issue a Letter of Request (LOR) to the US to gain access to detailed cost, capability and availability information on the US Navy’s MQ-4C Triton UAV.
The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) said that the goal is to provide long-range, long-endurance maritime surveillance and response and an effective anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capability. The acquisition of high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft for maritime patrol and other surveillance is being developed under project AIR 7000 Phase 1B.
If the Australian government does go ahead with the acquisition of the Triton UAV it would be welcome news for Northrop Grumman, prime contractor for the US Navy’s MQ-4C fleet, after it was revealed earlier this week that Germany is planning to end its Eurohawk UAV programme due to problems relating to air space integration and airworthiness.
To help assess the suitability of the Triton for Australia’s requirements, the government will establish a Foreign Military Sales Technical Services Case with the US Navy to obtain detailed cost, capability and availability information to inform future government consideration of Project AIR 7000 Phase 1B.
The Australian DoD plans to continue to investigate options for a mixed manned and unmanned aircraft fleet to inform government consideration later in the decade.
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