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Australia to Buy Additional MQ-4C Drone, Upgrade P-8A Poseidons

The Australian government is boosting its maritime surveillance capabilities with the procurement of an additional MQ-4C Triton drone and the upgrade of its current P-8A Poseidon fleet.

The latest investments, worth 1.5 billion Australian dollars ($965 million), will reportedly provide the Australian Defence Force with modern capabilities needed to defend against evolving threats.

Canberra currently operates three Triton drones, and the acquisition of a fourth is expected to bolster the country’s long-range, persistent surveillance across its maritime territories.

The drone, along with relevant ground and support systems, will be delivered in 2024.

Developed by American aerospace firm Northrop Grumman, the MQ-4C provides real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance over vast ocean and coastal regions.

It boasts an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles (15,186 kilometers/9436 miles), a flight endurance of more than 24 hours, and a maximum speed of 331 knots (613 kilometers/381 miles per hour).

“The purchase of an additional Triton will enhance operations from Australia’s northern bases,” Australian defense industry minister Pat Conroy said.

P-8A Poseidon Upgrade

Australia said all of its 14 P-8A Poseidon aircraft from Boeing will have their anti-submarine warfare, maritime strike, and intelligence-gathering capabilities upgraded.

According to Conroy, the enhancements will provide the Australian Defence Force with improved ability to secure and protect Canberra’s maritime interests.

The first Poseidon will begin receiving upgrades in 2026, and the entire fleet is expected to be fully modernized by 2030.

Apart from enhancing the country’s maritime patrol capability, the upgrade will also support the local defense industry by creating job opportunities for skilled Australian workers.

“Australian industry can expect more work and opportunities to develop a highly skilled workforce through sustaining these aircraft, helping to ensure our defense personnel have the capabilities they need to keep Australians safe,” Conroy stated.

The P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. Photo: LACW Kate Czerny/Australian Defence Force

Massive Defense Spending

Australia has been making headlines due to its massive defense spending in the past few months amid increasing tensions in East Asia.

The rift between Taiwan and China has spurred Canberra to bolster its ground, air, and maritime capabilities, including a planned $3-billion investment to expedite the delivery of five nuclear-powered submarines from the US.

The country also announced its procurement of smart sea mines from RWM Italia to provide a new level of deterrence for its naval forces.

Additionally, Australia awarded Lockheed Martin a contract worth 765 million Australian dollars ($487 million) to begin the first phase of the Air6500 missile defense project.

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