The Australian government is committing to purchase the first six Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton long-range surveillance drones for $1.4 billion.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will on Tuesday announce the purchase of the country's first Triton drone, as part of a joint program with the United States Navy. The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that the estimated cost of the entire fleet and associated infrastructure will total almost $7 billion.
"The Triton will complement the surveillance role of the P-8A Poseidon through sustained operations at long ranges as well as being able to undertake a range of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks," said the Prime Minister.
The initial $1.4 billion investment in the Triton system will also include $364 million on new facilities at RAAF Bases Edinburgh and Tindal, as well as the necessary ground control systems, support and training required to implement a project of this scope.
The Northrop-Grumman MQ-4C Triton is designed to provide continuous maritime surveillance over vast coastal and ocean regions, and each can fly for up to 30 hours at an altitude of 55,000 feet (17,000 metres).
Its primary surveillance sensor is an AN/ZPY-3 Multi-Function Active Sensor (MFAS) X-band AESA radar, which is capable of a 360-degree field-of-regard, allowing a MQ-4C Triton to survey over 7 million square kilometres of ocean within a 24-hour period.