June 25, 2018 / 10:49 PM / in 4 months

Australia to buy six U.S. Triton drones

MELBOURNE, June 26 (Reuters) - Australia will invest A$1.4 billion ($1 billion) and buy the first of six U.S. Triton remotely piloted aircraft to beef up its maritime patrols, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Tuesday.

The government said the Triton drones, made by Northrop Grumman Corp, would be used along with P-8A Poseidon aircraft for long range operations and intelligence gathering and surveillance.

“This investment will protect our borders and make our region more secure,” Turnbull and Australia’s defence ministers said in a joint statement.

Australia will be working with the United States navy to develop, produce and sustain the MQ-4C Triton, the government said.

“Australia’s alliance with the U.S. is our most important defence relationship, underpinned by strong cooperation in defence industry and capability development,” the government said.

The first of the Triton aircraft is due to enter service in mid-2023. All six drones would be in operation by late 2025, based in South Australia.

The A$1.4 billion investment includes new facilities at two air force bases in Australia, ground control systems, support and training. ($1 = 1.3490 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Sonali Paul Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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