Australia Buys Fourth Triton

By Colin Clark

Eager for better and more distant coverage of the vast Pacific Ocean and environs, Australia announced today it is buying an additional Triton, the marinized version of Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle, and upgrading more than a dozen manned surveillance aircraft — a total expenditure of more than $1.5 billion ($965 million USD).

The first Triton, including its ground and support systems, should be here by 2024, the minister for defense industry, Pat Conroy, said in a statement. “The purchase of an additional Triton will enhance operations from Australia’s northern bases, a priority under the Defence Strategic Review,” he said.

On top of the acquisition, the statement says the government signed “an Interim Sustainment Support” contract with Northrop Grumman Australia worth $220 million. That will create and fund a maintenance workforce at RAAF Base Tindal and RAAF Base Edinburgh for the Tritons.

The requirements for the Australian drones were developed with the U.S. Navy to ensure the services could share data from each other’s platforms, an important benefit in this region.

The ministry also said it planned to upgrade 14 Boeing P-8As, including improved anti-submarine warfare, maritime strike and intelligence capabilities. The first aircraft, the statement said, should begin getting upgrades in 2026, with the entire fleet being finished in 2030.

And, as always, there was sharp focus — especially by the Australian Labor Party — on how many jobs these contracts will create and how they will contribute to Australia’s ability to sustain its weapons without having to depend completely on the vast supply lines to America and Europe, from whence come most of its weapons.

“Overall, these decisions will create an additional 140 high-skilled jobs in South Australia and the Northern Territory,” the statement says. About 40 of them will be in the territory, where Tyndall is located.

“Australian industry can expect more work and opportunities to develop a highly skilled workforce through sustaining these aircraft, helping to ensure our Defence personnel have the capabilities they need to keep Australians safe,” Conroy said in the statement.

The Ministry of Defense estimates the new jobs “will contribute over $1.4 billion in acquisition and at least $6 billion in sustainment to Australian industry.”

This article was published by Breaking Defense on September 19, 2023.