Northrop Grumman Corp.’s NOC business unit, Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., has won a contract valued $82 million to support MQ-4C Triton drones operated by the U.S. Navy and Royal Australian Air Force. This contract provides for sustainment, engineering, logistics, test, mission control, and operator training systems support for MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). This effort also includes procurement of field service representatives and technical support to ensure that the MQ-4C Triton UAS aircraft are mission-capable for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. In addition, this effort supports reach-back engineering support for both the Navy and the government of Australia MQ-4C Triton UAS assets. Work is expected to be completed in March 2022. The deal has been awarded by the Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD.
The Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton is an American high-altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) under development for the United States Navy as a surveillance aircraft. Together with its associated ground control station, it is an unmanned aircraft system (UAS). Developed under the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) program, the system is intended to provide real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions (ISR) over vast ocean and coastal regions, continuous maritime surveillance, conduct search and rescue missions, and to complement the Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. Triton builds on elements of the RQ-4 Global Hawk; changes include reinforcements to the air frame and wing, de-icing systems, and lightning protection systems.
The MQ-4C System Development and Demonstration (SDD) aircraft was delivered in 2012 and the MQ-4C was expected to be operational by late 2015 with a total of 67 aircraft to be procured. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the MQ-4C was achieved in 2018 with Full Operating Capability (FOC) planned in 2023. The Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAS was acquired for the U.S. Navy as a Department of Defense Acquisition Category (ACAT) 1D program and on 22 April 2008, Northrop Grumman received the BAMS contract worth $1.16 billion. Lockheed Martin filed a formal protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) two weeks later. On 11 August 2008 the GAO ruled to uphold the Navy’s selection of Northrop Grumman. In September 2010, the BAMS aircraft was designated the MQ-4C.
On 13 March 2014, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced Australia’s intention to buy the MQ-4C Triton and become its first foreign customer. The announcement was made at RAAF Base Edinburgh, the base of the country’s fleet of eighteen AP-3C Orion aircraft it will replace. RAAF Tritons and Poseidons will be used in a similar complementary fashion as with U.S. Navy operation, where the MQ-4C performs high-altitude broad area surveillance missions, allowing the P-8A to be more dedicated to anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, search and rescue response, and electronic intelligence missions. On 26 June 2018, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the purchase of the first of six MQ-4C Tritons with consideration being given to purchase a seventh.