GLOBAL DEFENSE MARKET
AVALON NEWS: Northrop Looks to Australia for More Triton Orders
Northrop Grumman photo
GEELONG, Australia — Australia sometime in the coming weeks will be releasing its long-awaited Defense Strategic Review. And Northrop Grumman executives are hoping the document will call for the nation to order more of its MQ-4C Triton long-range, high endurance unmanned aerial vehicles.
Jane Bishop, the company’s vice president for global surveillance, said the program to deliver three Tritons to the Royal Australian Air Force is on track, with the first model revealed to the public last fall at a ceremony on California, and the first flight scheduled to take place in the third quarter of this year.
The second Triton is undergoing payload integration, and the third is still under construction at the company’s Moss Point, Mississippi, facility, she said in an interview on the sidelines of Avalon —The Australian Air Show.
“Everything is really clicking along for production,” she said.
Australia is a “cooperative program partner,” for the Triton, meaning it helped shape the aircraft’s requirements and the nation will receive the exact same capabilities as the U.S. Navy has in its models. The two nations’ fleets will also be interoperable and able to share data.
“We’re all waiting with bated breath to see what comes out of the [Defense Strategic Review]. We’re looking forward to follow-on awards,” she said. Current requirements call for a fleet of six or seven Tritons, she said.
“We have made a compelling case to the Australians. … We are prepared to respond to whatever the answer is,” she said, adding that the company is hoping for a follow-on order of one to four aircraft.
“Persistent global maritime awareness is central to deterring threats, and we certainly feel that — here in the Indo-Pacific region — Triton is a proven solution,” she said.
As for the U.S. program, the Navy recently brought back two of the aircraft it had deployed to Guam where for the past two years they flew some 5,000 flight hours in operational tests. The Navy is aiming to achieve initial operating capability in the fall timeframe, she said.
Northrop Grumman is on contract to deliver 23 of the UAVs to the Navy.
“While we are thinking about the capability we are intending to deliver today, we are planning for capabilities in the future,” she said. That includes an increment two package that will feature a weather radar and sense-and-avoid capability.
The company continues to invest its own research-and-development dollars employing a manned flying testbed to try out new capabilities and payloads. One experiment had a new gateway that was able to transmit data collected by the Triton to simulated F-35 joint strike fighters, E-2D Hawkeye surveillance aircraft, AEGIS-class destroyers and carrier strike groups, she said.
“It was able to stitch together and provide a common operating picture across all those different platforms,” she said. That delivers the information dominance that customers are demanding, she added.
As for other international customers, Northrop Grumman is pitching the Triton to some countries, but there is nothing to report yet.
“We look forward to sharing more information on that as those opportunities become more real,” she said.