Canberra has committed to obtaining its third Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned air system.

“Once in service, this capability will significantly enhance our ability to persistently patrol Australia’s maritime approaches from the North, in the South West Pacific and down to Antarctica,” says defence minister Linda Reynolds.

“The fleet is being developed and purchased through a Cooperative Program with the US Navy. This programme strengthens our ability to develop advanced maritime surveillance capability and ensure our capabilities remain complementary with our security partners, while sharing in the benefits of their technical expertise and project costs.”

In June 2018, Canberra announced that it would obtain six MQ-4Cs.

A potential wrinkle in its plan occurred in early 2020, when the Trump administration proposed a production pause for the programme in fiscal years 2021 and 2022.

Given that this would affect Canberra’s schedule, Northrop proposed that Australia advance its acquisition of the MQ-4C.

The proposal would see all six of Australia’s Tritons come from low-rate, initial-product lot five. Previously, only one of its examples would have come from this batch, with the following aircraft within subsequent lots.