Australia has committed to the purchase of an additional Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton Remotely Piloted Aircraft System.

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the Triton acquisition is an important part of protecting Australia’s borders and making the region more secure.

“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,” Minister Reynolds said.

“The fleet is being developed and purchased through a Cooperative Program with the US Navy. This Program 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.

“Our membership of the Cooperative Program gives us the confidence to acquire our third Triton. We will continue to work closely with the US to assure our future capability."

“Over $475 million is set to be spent locally, with several Australian companies already completing Triton production work for Northrop Grumman Corporation,” Minister Reynolds said.

The commitment comes several months after US budget papers announced a ‘production pause’ of the Triton in FY 2021 and 2022 and “[deferred] further procurement of the Multi-INT configuration until FY 2023.” The funding could instead be directed towards the Trump administration’s border wall, which tapped into the Pentagon’s budget after neither Mexico nor Congress would pay the full cost.

“Defence is aware of the US Administration’s budget request to Congress, which includes a proposed pause on Triton production funding for two years until 2023. It is important to note that this request is not the final US Defense budget,” a Defence spokesperson said to ADM at the time. “The Department is working closely with both the US Navy and Northrop Grumman to understand impacts on the Australia’s Maritime Patrol Program."

The single platform purchase also stymies Northrop Grumman's hopes for Australia to buy the next lot of Tritons in a single tranche.

In February, Chris Deeble, CE of Northrop Grumman Australia, said to ADM"We also hope that we get the next tranche of four remaining aircraft, a total of six approved, at the start of next year by Government, and by doing that we think there will be some advantages, including cost savings and industry opportunities, that we will be able to leverage by getting all of the aircraft agreed in that next tranche."

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