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Triton UAV to Herald Sea-Change in RAAF Surveillance

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Triton to Herald Sea-Change In RAAF Surveillance (excerpt)

(Source: Australian Strategic Policy Institute Blog; posted Jan 27, 2017)

By Matt Rainbow

The arrival in November of the first of Australia’s new P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft is a reminder that the days of the RAAF’s AP-3C Orions are numbered. For three decades, the Orions of 10 and 11 Squadrons performed roles, including anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue and overland intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).

The Poseidon can fly faster and stay on station longer than the Orion, can be refuelled in-flight and its radar, Electro Optic and Electronic Support Measure systems are a generation ahead of the latest AP-3C upgrades. The RAAF intends to have its 15 Poseidons in service by the late 2020s, on the same missions as the Orion.

But Australia will soon be acquiring a very different aircraft which is much less of a like-for-like replacement. The MQ-4C Triton, to be in service by 2019, will also be filled with sensors, but without a single crew member on-board. The remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) will conduct maritime surveillance for the RAAF alongside the Poseidon.

The RAAF operates Israeli Herons in Afghanistan but the Triton is a strategic-level asset which will likely be tasked at the highest levels of Defence. The RAAF plans to buy only seven for $2–3 billion. To operate the Triton effectively, the ADF will need to deal with several issues.

A benefit of RPAs is that the crew remains safely on the ground, sometimes thousands of kilometres away. American RPAs operating in the Middle East and South West Asia have been piloted from control centres near Las Vegas. It’s now possible for Full Motion Video from an RPA over Yemen to be viewed by analysts in Qatar, Germany, Langley, or anywhere in the world. But that ‘reach back’ also contains risks. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the ASPI website.