Australia has confirmed its long-planned acquisition of six Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton remotely piloted aircraft.

The initial A$1.4 billion ($1 billion) deal includes one MQ-4C, as well as a A$200 million programme with the US Navy for development, production, and sustainment of the aircraft, says prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“The Triton will complement the surveillance role of the Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft through sustained operations at long ranges as well as being able to undertake a range of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks,” says Turnbull.

“Together these aircraft will significantly enhance our anti-submarine warfare and maritime strike capability, as well as our search and rescue capability. Our number one priority is keeping Australians safe. This investment will protect our borders and make our region more secure.”

Also included in the $1.4 billion cost is a A$364 million investment in new facilities at RAAF Edinburgh and RAAF Tindal, ground control systems, support, and training.

The Royal Australian Air Force has seven Poseidons in its fleet now, and will have its full complement of 12 by 2022.

While the deal for six examples represents a significant success for Northrop Grumman, Canberra had previously hinted that it could obtain “up to seven” Tritons.

The first example will enter Australian service in mid-2023, with all six to be delivered and in operation by late 2025, based at RAAF Edinburgh in South Australia.

Story corrected to reflect that A$1.4 billion cost includes just one aircraft.