During ADM's recent Northern Australia Defence Summit, Northrop Grumman chief executive Ian Irving outlined how future MQ-4C Triton operations would affect the NT.
Irving said the Commonwealth was still in the process of determining the initial deployment configuration of the up to 7 MQ-4C Tritons being acquired under Project Air 7000 Ph1B. Broadly speaking, the aircraft will be controlled from the Main Operating Base (MOB) at RAAF Edinburgh with launch and recovery operations occurring from both the MOB and a Forward Operating Base (FOB) at RAAF Tindal.
“Given the strategic importance of the northern approaches to the defence of Australia and its economic interests in SE Asia, it is reasonable to expect that as the Defence presence continues to grow, Triton capability will naturally shift to the NT.”
Consequently, the NT will see a significant investment in facilities and support infrastructure at Tindal over the life of type of Triton.
“This includes requirements to develop and maintain a skilled sustainment workforce with a focus on engineering, avionics, mechanical technicians, communications and ground shelter technicians, system administrators and logisticians.”
Irving said Triton would represent a significant investment in growth and development of Australian Industry Capability (AIC) with potentially $239 million in new work to be realised across key innovation priorities of ISR and autonomous systems.
A key feature of Northrop Grumman's AIC plan is to establish sovereign maintenance and sustainment in-country for the Triton UAS program. The workforce training and development plan includes development of an Australian (DASR/EASA compliant) UAS Maintenance Technician course by Aviation Australia and Northland Community and Technical College that uses US courseware developed by Northland College in Minnesota.
The company will also partner with Aviation Australia, Charles Darwin University and the NT Government to develop opportunities for the delivery of UAS training courses at CDU campuses at Katherine and Darwin for Northrop Grumman personnel and in support of the broader Aerospace industry. Delivery of an apprenticeship scheme which will be open to NT participants and school-based scholarships and pathways for indigenous students in the NT were also key tenets of the plan.
Irving affirmed Northrop Grumman's commitment to the Indigenous Procurement Policy and is developing, in close collaboration with Reconciliation Australia, a Reconciliation Action Plan.
“Accordingly, we are actively seeking opportunities for indigenous participation in support of RAAF’s planned deployment at RAAF Tindal in the NT and, with the support of the NT Government and Centre for Defence Industry Capability, we have opened a dialogue with Crowhurst Goodline, a local SME with a 50 per cent indigenous workforce.”
A milestone for the US Navy Triton program was reached recently when the first operational Triton arrived at Naval Air Station Ventura County in Point Mugu, California.