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Thursday, Aug 18, 2022

Drone Design Moves Ahead in Palmdale

 Northrop Grumman Corp. announced last month that it reached a milestone in the production of Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton autonomous aircraft.

Being built in Palmdale by the Falls Church, Virginia defense contractor for the Royal Australian Air Force, workers mounted the aircraft fuselage onto Triton’s one-piece wing. 

The Triton drone is expected to be delivered to the Australians by 2023.

Rho Cauley-Bruner, Triton program manager for Northrop, said that the company was on schedule to deliver Triton’s powerful capability in support of Australia’s national security.

“This production milestone further demonstrates our commitment to both sides of the cooperative program between the Royal Australian Air Force and the U.S. Navy,” Cauley-Bruner said in a statement. 

The Triton aircraft will be delivered just as the U.S. Navy expects to achieve initial operational capability with its multi-intelligent Tritons – the same configuration the Australians are receiving, according to a release from Northrop. The company added that the identical capabilities will allow the RAAF and U.S. Navy to share data and maintain an unblinking autonomous intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting capability over some of the world’s most critical maritime regions.

 Australian Air Force Group Capt. Jason Lind, director of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic warfare, said it was pleased with the continuing progress of its first Triton and the ongoing relationships it enjoys with the U.S. Navy and with Northrop. 

“I am looking forward to seeing our first Triton roll off the production line and then commence flying in Australian skies in 2024,” Lind said in a statement. “This capability will extend Australia’s ability to see and understand our maritime approaches to the north and also as far south as Antarctica.”

The Triton is based on the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft made by Northrop but with improvements to the airframe and wings to fly over the ocean where it will provide surveillance of ships and submarine vessels. Triton can fly for about 30 hours at an altitude of more than 10 miles above Earth at speeds of up to 380 miles per hour. The planes are flown remotely from a ground station by a crew of four. 

The first two Tritons were deployed by the Navy in Guam two years ago. 

Northrop will produce more than 60 of the aircraft for the Navy at a cost of more than $3 billion. Triton will be used in conjunction with the Boeing P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare aircraft.

In June 2018, then-Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that his country would buy six Triton aircraft with the potential to buy a seventh. 

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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