SYDNEY – Eager to achieve better and more distant coverage of the vast Pacific Ocean and its surroundings, Australia today announced that it will purchase a Tritonthe marinized version of Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle, and the upgrade of more than a dozen manned surveillance aircraft – a total expenditure of more than $1.5 billion ($965 million)..
The first Triton, including its ground and support systems, should be here in 2024, Defense Industry Minister Pat Conroy said in a statement. “The purchase of an additional Triton will improve operations from bases in northern Australia, a priority under the Strategic Defense Review,” he said.
In addition to the acquisition, the statement said the government signed an “interim maintenance support” contract with Northrop Grumman Australia worth $220 million. This will create and fund a maintenance workforce at RAAF Base Tindal and RAAF Base Edinburgh for the Tritons.
The requirements for Australian drones were developed with the US Navy to ensure the services could share data from each other’s platforms, an important benefit in this region.
The ministry also said it planned to improve 14 Boeing P-8A, including improving anti-submarine warfare, maritime strikes and intelligence capabilities. The first aircraft, according to the statement, should begin receiving upgrades in 2026, and the entire fleet will be completed in 2030.
And, as always, there was special focus (especially by the Australian Labor Party) on how many jobs these contracts will create and how they will contribute to Australia’s ability to maintain its weapons without having to rely completely on vast supply lines to the United States and Europe, where most of its weapons come from.
“Overall, these decisions will create an additional 140 highly skilled jobs in South Australia and the Northern Territory,” the statement said. About 40 of them will be in the territory where Tyndall is located.
“Australian industry can look forward to more work and opportunities to develop a highly skilled workforce through the maintenance of these aircraft, helping to ensure our Defense personnel have the capabilities they need to keep Australians safe,” Conroy said at the release.
The Ministry of Defense estimates that the new jobs “will contribute more than $1.4 billion in procurement and at least $6 billion in sustaining Australian industry.”