As technology advances the world is rapidly evolving. Technological barriers are being smashed, opening the way to vastly improved global defense and security capabilities.
All without a person in the cockpit.
As autonomous programs such as the U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C Triton and MQ-8C Fire Scout continue demonstrating value at home, their capabilities and potential is attracting interest from overseas. Specifically from one of the United States’ longest standing allies: Australia.
For more than 20 years, Northrop Grumman has contributed to Australia’s national security as a major industry partner in the defense, security, and information systems, in addition to being a key subcontractor for the F-35 Lightning II and the F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft systems.
Today, the company’s leadership in autonomous systems is opening potential partnerships that could continue building Australia’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) regional leadership. Per the nation’s 2016 Defense White Paper, the Commonwealth of Australia plans to acquire up to seven Triton unmanned aircraft systems for maritime patrol and other surveillance roles.
“At eight million square kilometers, Australia’s economic exclusion zone is the third largest in the world, with extensive economic interests and strategic engagements in the wider Indo-Pacific region,” said Ian Irving, chief executive, Northrop Grumman Australia. “Only a high altitude, long endurance unmanned aircraft system has the range, endurance and capabilities required for such an exhaustive broad area maritime surveillance mission.”
Triton is a high altitude, long endurance autonomous aircraft providing up to 24 hours endurance. Its sensor suite provides a 360 degree view of its surroundings at a radius of more than 2,000 nautical miles. The system has multiple intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities that complement Australia’s other critical MISR platforms, significantly enhancing the Australian Defense Force’s overall situational awareness.
For tactical naval ISR missions, Fire Scout provides more capability, more persistence, more payloads, and more value than other vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle platforms on the market.
“Fire Scout offers an unmatched persistent autonomous ISR capability and is interoperable with the U.S. Navy and allied systems,” said Irving. “The manned/unmanned teaming concept developed by the U.S. Navy for the Fire Scout and MH-60R helicopter has been operationally proven and has application for future Australian concepts of operations.”
Operating the MQ-8C would allow Australia and the U.S. to share maritime ISR data, and reduce costs through common equipment purchases, logistics and sustainment, basing, and manpower. These include long endurance, multi-intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to complement the manned MH-60R and surface combat vessel missions and to extend the operator’s reach. Fire Scout’s capabilities are a perfect fit for the Royal Australian Navy’s maritime ISR requirements.
Northrop Grumman autonomous systems offer advanced technology in stealth, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and strike capabilities to defend Australian interests.
“Australia has always been on the forefront of autonomous technology,” said Scott Harris, head of aerospace programs, Northrop Grumman Australia. “The evolution of these autonomous systems represents truly untapped potential when it comes to protecting Australia’s sovereignty now and into the future.”