Withdrawing Germany from behind Triton reconnaissance drones, developer Northrop Grumman is now trying to persuade Australia to ask for the ordered copies first, because without it, the program will be temporarily suspended in 2021.
For a long time, Germany seemed to be buying several copies of the naval version of one of Northop Grumman’s most successful reconnaissance drones, the RQ-4 Global Hawk, the MQ-4C Triton. The aircraft would have filled the shortfall left over from the Breguet Atlantics intelligence aircraft withdrawn in 2010, without a successor, but the final view of the decision-makers is that these large unmanned aircraft could pose a threat to European air traffic. The decision will not have a good impact on the production of the MQ-4C either: according to the plans of the current Trump government, the Navy will not receive additional copies of the type in 2021-22. During this period, the military leadership would focus more on a modernized version of IFC-4 specifically designed for electronic warfare, forcing the manufacturer to develop it as well, if Congress also approves the draft budget. Northop Grumman has therefore now turned to Australia, which has previously been interested in acquiring Triton to effectively control its own territorial waters.
According to Northrop, if an Australian or other contract does not replace German, production costs could rise significantly. This is because the U.S. has virtually no demand for machines planned to be assembled so far during the LRIP 5 production cycle, but the Triton program has the same cost during the two-year quasi-break. This could have been avoided if Australians had modified their 2018 order and produced their own copies next year and 2022, respectively. This would be good for the government as well, it would be able to put the new drones into the system even earlier than originally planned, reaching their full deployment before the set deadline. The Australian government has already indicated that they are also working closely with the U.S. Navy and Northrop Grummann, but have no plans to make changes to the procurement of marine patrols yet. They will certainly not do anything until the new defense budget, and thus the funding plan for the MQ-4C program, becomes law.