The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has formally reactivated No 9 Squadron at RAAF Base Tindal – located within Australia’s Northern Territory – as the air arm prepares to welcome its first Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in 2024.
No 9 Squadron was officially reformed at Tindal on June 11, just three months after Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles revealed that the unit would be reactivated to operate the MQ-4C during the Australian International Airshow, which was held at Avalon Airport in Victoria from February 28 to March 5, 2023. The unit will join the RAAF’s No 92 Wing Surveillance and Response Group – which is headquartered at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia – with Triton operations taking place from RAAF Base Tindal. The MQ-4C will be used to complement the RAAF’s already established fleet of Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft once the HALE UAV enters operational service next year.
Commenting on No 9 Squadron’s reformation, Chief of the Air Force AM Rob Chipman, said that the moment marked the beginning of a new era in the unit’s already distinguished history. “[No] 9 Squadron has played an incredibly important role in the [RAAF], serving during critical times for Australia’s security. I’m proud to see the squadron return to service in 2023,” he said.
Initially formed in 1939, No 9 Squadron saw active service in the Mediterranean Sea and Indian/Pacific Oceans during World War Two, before it was first deactivated in 1944 after receiving 12 battle honours. The unit was later reactivated as a helicopter squadron – flying the Bell UH-1 Iroquois – on June 11, 1962, before it deployed in support of Australian military operations during the Vietnam War. The squadron was again disbanded in 1989 and has now been reactivated to fly the MQ-4C in a surveillance role.
Australia intends to acquire six MQ-4Cs in total, with deliveries set to begin in 2024. Northrop Grumman rolled out the RAAF’s first MQ-4C (serial A57-001) at its facility in Palmdale, California, on September 14, 2022.