US Approves MQ-4C Triton Sale to Germany

A US Navy MQ-4C Triton in flight. The US State Department has approved the sale of four Tritons to Germany. US Navy

US STATE Department approval has been granted for a possible Foreign Military Sale to Germany of four Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) at an estimated cost of $2.50 billion.  The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced the approval on April 5 and said it had delivered the required certification notifying Congress of the requested sale on the previous day.

In addition to the four MQ-4C systems, the DSCA says the sale will include one mission control station (MCS) comprised of one main operating base (MD-3A) and one forward operating base (MD-3B), ten Kearfott inertial navigation system/global positioning system (INS/GPS) units (two per aircraft plus two spares) and ten LN-251 INS/GPS units (two per aircraft plus two spares).  This MQ-4C will be a modified version of the US Navy Triton configuration.

Also included is one spare Rolls Royce engine, communication equipment, support equipment, mission planning element to include Joint Mission Planning System (JMPS) GPS items, communications security (COMSEC) equipment, mapping, training, support equipment, spares, personnel training, training devices and logistics.  Other elements of unique engineering efforts required to support the integration, installation and functional platform compatibility testing of Germany’s indigenous payload will also be included.

The DSCA notes that the proposed sale of the MQ-4C Triton will support legitimate national security requirements and significantly enhance Germany’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and the overall collective security of the European Union and NATO.  The proposed sale of the MQ-4C Triton will close a crucial capability gap and will enhance bilateral and NATO interoperability and will help ensure that Germany is able to continue to monitor and deter regional threats.

Germany had previously planned to acquire the RQ-4E EuroHawk for this surveillance requirement.  This was based on the US Air Force’s Global Hawk and a prototype EuroHawk made its first flight from Palmdale, California, on June 29, 2010.  However, severe doubts about whether the type could gain certification for operation in European airspace led to the German Ministry of Defence announcing on May 16, 2013, that the programme was being cancelled and no further air vehicles were built.  On March 7, 2017, the German Government confirmed that the MQ-4C Triton would be purchased instead, as the US Navy had already designed it with systems enabling it to operate in civilian and international airspace.