VICTORIA, Australia — A senior defense procurement official said Australia is looking to enter into an agreement with the US Navy in order to influence future development of the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton maritime unmanned aerial system.

In 2014, the coalition government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that it would acquire up to seven MQ-4C air vehicles for the Royal Australian Air Force, with the exact number of platforms and timing to be informed by a coming the forthcoming defense white paper and Defence Capability Plan, due to be released in the middle of this year.

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Australia had been a cooperative partner in the system design and development phase of the Triton between 2006 and 2009, but this agreement had subsequently lapsed. A decision on the formal purchase of the MQ-4C is expected sometime in 2016.

Group Capt.ain Guy Adams, director of unmanned aerial systems for the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO), Australia's military procurement agency, said that experience gained through an ongoing cooperation with the US Navy on the Boeing P-8A Poseidon program has driven a similar requirement for Triton.

before the next government consideration, so prior to next year. The progress and the benefits "The RAAF will buy the integrated functional level capability level four Triton, which will be the US Navy standard production version at that time and we are looking at entering into a co-operative development program with the US Navy, so Australia may have the ability to influence the future design and development of the program as it develops," GPCAPT Adams said at the Australian International Airshow at the Avalon Airport.

"We would try to do that; that; [what] we've seen out of the P-8A program certainly indicates it is a worthwhile activity."

The US Air Force flew an RQ-4B Global Hawk into Avalon immediately before the start of prior to the commencement of the show, marking the first time the unmanned platform had been flown into a civilian airport in Australia.

"This is the first time that a Global Hawk has flown into an international air show," said Ian Irving, chief executive for Northrop Grumman Australia. "This really speaks to the maturity and reliability of the system. As the Royal Australian Air Force seeks to procure the MQ-4C Triton UAS, a variant based on Global Hawk, they will be able to use the system's capabilities to transform the way they conduct maritime surveillance missions."


Nigel Pittaway is the Australia correspondent for Defense News.

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