A Boeing-led Australian industry team has rolled out its first Loyal Wingman unmanned aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force.
The combat drone uses artificial intelligence to extend the capabilities of manned and unmanned platforms.
It is Boeing’s largest investment in an unmanned aircraft outside of the United States.
The working Loyal Wingman prototype now moves into ground testing, followed by taxi and first flight later this year.
As the first of three prototypes for Australia’s Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program, the aircraft also serves as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS) being developed for the global defense market.
The aircraft was engineered using a digital twin to model its structures, systems, capabilities and full life-cycle requirements; manufactured with Boeing’s largest-ever resin-infused single composite piece; and assembled using proven advanced manufacturing processes.
“We are proud to take this significant step forward with the Royal Australian Air Force and show the potential for smart unmanned teaming to serve as a force multiplier,” Boeing Defense, Space & Security vice president and general manager of Autonomous Systems Kristin Robertson said.
“We look forward to getting the aircraft into flight testing and proving out the unmanned teaming concept. We see global allies with those same mission needs, which is why this program is so important to advancing the development of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.”
Boeing is not announcing where the Loyal Wingman will carry out flight tests.
The company has committed to a drone flight testing facility at Cloncurry, where the local council approved the development application for the project in January.
“Boeing looks forward to when this range is ready for use,” Boeing Airpower Teaming System program director Dr Shane Arnott said.
“We will be initially be testing some of our high-performance airborne test beds at the Cloncurry flight test facility, which is part of an autonomy R&D program that’s heading toward new product and prototypes, like the Loyal Wingman – Advanced Development Program.”