Northrop Grumman has reached a milestone in the production of the first MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

A milestone was achieved when the jet’s fuselage was mounted onto Triton’s one-piece wing.

Once delivered, Triton’s payload and endurance will enable RAAF to identify and analyse threats that were undetectable earlier.

Northrop Grumman Triton programme manager Rho Cauley-Bruner said: “This production milestone further demonstrates our commitment to both sides of the cooperative program between the Royal Australian Air Force and the US Navy.

“We are on schedule to deliver Triton’s powerful capability in support of Australia’s national security.”

Delivery of first Triton to RAAF is on-track, stated Northrop Grumman.

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The first Triton is expected to fly in Australian airspace in 2024.

The US Navy is expecting to reach initial operating capability (IOC) with its fleet of multi-intelligence Tritons that have been built with the same configuration as those to be received by Australia.

Due to the similarities in capabilities, the RAAF and US Navy will be able to share data and maintain an autonomous ISR and targeting capability across the most critical maritime regions in the world.

Air Force Headquarters ISR and Electronic Warfare director group captain Jason Lind said: “The Air Force is pleased with the continuing progress of our first Triton and the ongoing strong relationships we enjoy within the Cooperative Program with the US Navy and with the manufacturer of the Triton, Northrop Grumman Corporation.

“This capability will extend Australia’s ability to see and understand our maritime approaches to the north and also as far south as Antarctica.”

According to the company, Triton’s critical capability will improve maritime domain awareness in the Pacific region.

In September, the Commonwealth of Australia received the MQ-4C Triton Network Integration Test Environment (NITE) capability. Based at RAAF Base Edinburgh, this capability marks a key milestone in the Triton programme.