The Australian Department of Defence­ has officially announced its plan to purchase Triton aircraft.

An unmanned aircraft system with an autonomous capability built for maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, Triton is the first Northrop Grumman-built aircraft system Australia has purchased. The system will be operated by the Royal Australian Air Force.

“Northrop Grumman looks forward to bringing the Triton unmanned system with its autonomous capability to Australia,” said Ian Irving, chief executive officer, Northrop Grumman Australia.

“Working with the Royal Australian Air Force and the U.S. Navy, we are confident that we can provide the best capability to fulfill Australia’s maritime mission.”

Australia to Purchase Triton Aircraft System Delivering Unprecedented Maritime Domain Awareness
(L to R) Northrop Grumman Chairman and CEO Wes Bush, Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull, Australian Minister for Defence Marise Payne, Australian Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne and Australia’s Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Leo Davies AO, CSC.

Triton can fly at altitudes of 55,000 feet for 24 hours at a time and is equipped with sensors that provide high-resolution imagery and near real-time video. Pilots and sensor operators fly the Triton from ground stations, which can command flights all over the world.

“Triton provides unprecedented endurance and 360-degree coverage through its unique sensor suite,” said Doug Shaffer, vice president of Triton programs, Northrop Grumman.

“Australia has one of the largest sea zones in the world over which it has rights to use marine resources, also known as an Economic Exclusion Zone. As a flexible platform, Triton can serve in missions as varied as maritime domain awareness, target acquisition, fisheries protection, oil field monitoring and humanitarian relief.”

16 COMMENTS

    • F-35, C-130J, Triton, Subs, and Frigates.

      The wonders of an efficient procurement system mostly apolitical. Contrasted with Jeremey “UK doesn’t need nukes” Corbyn or I pretend to support, but really meh Theresa May.

    • I would also point out that they have no Nuclear deterrent in their defence budget and I’d guess separated pensions for their service personnel. Just moving those back out of the MoD budget would help the UK a lot.

      These plus the above mentioned efficient procurement = the correct way to go

      • nuke deterrent and pensions really should be transferred out of the MOD budget, they’re crippling. pensions funnily enough are how we can get away with saying we spend 2% GDP on def.

    • We have no choice since we are effectively in the middle (both geographically and historically) of the biggest arms build up in the Pacific since the Imperial Japanese in WWII

      China is a much bigger threat than Japan ever was. For a start they are a nuclear power.

      While Japan was a strong regional power with a modernized industrial base it was never the world’s largest economy. China already is or will soon be and is using its economic clout to buy off or bully Pacific nations.

      They have invested in both aid and economic projects in every single Pacific island nation. For example they have just built a massive wharf in Vanuatu supposedly for tourist ships and small coastal freighters but it large enough and deep enough for an aircraft carrier.

      Papuan New Guinea literally Australia’s nearest neighbour just a couple of hundred kilometers away from our border are the latest to sign up for China’s ‘one belt one road’ project.

      While the US military retains a good working relationship and high levels of interoperability with the ADF it’s political leadership is untrustworthy and it’s foreign policy a complete unpredictable mess.

      While a ‘global Britain’ may have a renewed interest in the Pacific, aspiration is likely to exceed capability by a fair margin. If Britain, at the height of empire in the 1940’s couldn’t defend tiny Singapore it’s chance of stemming the Chinese is an order of magnitude less.

      Unlike the Russian threat to the UK Australia has nothing like the NATO allies between it and a hostile super power.

      For all intents and purposes Australia stands alone and must prepare to defend itself.

      • In all fairness Singapore was lost because of the lack of air cover for the naval force sent to intercept the Japanese fleet. The RAF didn’t show up, and RN carriers either.

        • The carrier allocated to accompany Force Z was damaged in combat and unable to be replaced.
          Force Z was lost because the RAF failed to provide air cover and turned up 2 hours late.

          Singapore was lost due to Percival appalling leadership and total failure to use the huge amount of equipment and men he had effectively.
          Individual regiments fought well but we’re let’s down by the command staff who had no overall plan and failed to ensure a joined up defence.
          And the myth that Singapore coastal defence guns where impotent is wrong ,they provided accurate fire support when asked , but Percival failed to ensure efficient means to communicate with the shore batteries so they were not used effectively.
          But the biggest culprit was Churchill who terrified Percival .

  1. Makes very good sense to use drones across such a vast country. This could prove to be a lucrative market for autonomous/remote command vehicles in the future.

  2. I hear lots of complaints about the Border Force fleet being woefully inadequate to patrol our waters often accompanied by “transfer the River B1s” suggestions. Would drones be a cost-effective way of enhancing the Border Force’s effectiveness? If not something as big as Triton then maybe ScanEagle plus something like VIDAR from Sentient Vision (an Australian company as it happens) – http://www.sentientvision.com/products/vidar-2/

    Again, me bleating on about the same thing, but I really do think that the small and medium-ish sized drone spaces are going to be rapidly growing markets where there is a lot of world-class UK excellence (e.g. materials science, engines, compact/robust electronics and control systems, software) that is very directly applicable to these spaces. We should really be looking to develop products in these areas.

    • It does make sense. Especially considering the US uses Reapers just to patrol the Mexico border, I don’t see why Britain shouldn’t acquire some of these to help out the P-8s.

  3. The advantage Australia has is huge empty spaces of sky. Germany looked at a Triton type drone and decided against it after huge expense, as at that stage it couldn’t work in the crowded skies of Europe. The new RAF Predator seems, in theory at least, to be able to cope with civilian air traffic. Where we need to patrol is full of transatlantic airliners! What would be interesting to know is what the RAF intends to do with the “old” Reapers. GA have developed a bolt-on sea search radar, could the new collision avoidance software be uploaded?

    • Only part of the story… Germany was trying to develop a Global Hawk sub variant referred to as ‘Euro Hawk’. The Global Hawk was not initially designed to operate in civil air space so the Germans were trying to add that capability in. It was proving very expensive and they gave up when the Triton appeared.

      The Triton is an extensively revised version of the Global Hawk that has sense-and avoid, as well as anti-collision capabilities (and de-icing, lightning strike protection) and all the other gizmos built in from the start to allow it to operate safely in civil airspace and airports.

      Germany announced last year that they will also be acquiring the Triton as it ticks all the boxes of their initial attempt.

      In addition to this ‘HALE’ capability the RAAF is also inquiring a ‘MALE’ vehicle. Undecided as yet but strongly tipped to be the same Predator B/Protector variant which the UK recently started procuring which is also certified for civil space.

      The Triton is most impressive though. According to various articles is can survey an area of 2,700,000 square miles of sea or coastline in a single sortie with it’s synthetic aperture radar. Just to give you an idea of how big that is, the total land area of Australia is 2,969,907 square miles. It can also autonomously drop down to investigate and classify contacts made with the radar via EO/IR. This is something the Global Hawk can’t do, as the Triton has a strengthened frame and the lighting/ice protection.

  4. So Australia is purchasing primarily for maritime space use to work in tandem with P8s. massive ocean space to cover and not crowded so combination works well.

  5. How far away are these sort of things from being operable from the QE/PoW?

    How much room do they need? Is the technology good enough for carrier take off/ landings?

    Just curious how long it might be before we see the carriers operating fleets of Predators for maritime surveillance etc.

    • They’re land based and as QE isn’t fitted for CATOBAR it’s very unlikely you could make them work off her.

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