Naval Air Systems Command awarded Northrop Grumman [NOC] a $65 million advance acquisition contract on May 29 for long-lead components to manufacture and deliver three MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the U.S. Navy and Australia.

This award covers components to deliver two Tritons to the U.S. Navy and one to Australia as low-rate initial production Lot 5 aircraft. The contract also provides equipment and associated equipment for three ground stations; two for the U.S. Navy and one for Australia.

The first two delivered MQ-4C Triton aircraft at their new hangar at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, Calif. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

The contract announcement said this award was not competitively procured pursuant to Federal Acquisition Regulations.

Work is expected to be finished in June 2020

The contract combines $38 million, or 59 percent, of purchases for the Navy and $27 million, or 41 percent, of purchases for the Navy under a cooperative agreement.

Last year, Australia said it was ordering six initial Tritons for $1 billion in a cooperative program with the U.S. Navy. At the time, Australia said it would use the aircraft to complement its new P-8A Poseidon aircraft (Defense Daily, June 16, 2018).

The first Triton is scheduled to be introduced to Australia’s service in 2023 and all six aircraft are to be delivered by 2025. In March, the Australian Defence Ministry announced it was purchasing a second MQ-4C.

Last month, the Navy’s air warfare director, Rear Adm. Scott Conn, told a House panel the Navy expects to start deploying its Tritons later this summer. Only once the Triton capability increases can the Navy then start retiring as planned its EP-3E electronic reconnaissance aircraft in 2021 (Defense Daily, April 5).