The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has received the first of three Loyal Wingman aircraft prototypes from Boeing. The unmanned combat drone being built by a Boeing-led Australian industry team for the RAAF as part of the Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program is the first aircraft to be designed, engineered, and manufactured in Australia in over half a century.
Being built by over 35 Australian industry partners across four Australian states, the Loyal Wingman is an advanced jet-powered combat drone aimed at the global market to serve as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS). Engineering of the 38-ft-long (11.7-m) drone involved the creation of a “digital twin” to model its structures, systems, capabilities, and full life-cycle requirements, and the drone itself is made of advanced composite materials that include the largest-ever resin-infused single composite piece ever manufactured by Boeing.
The Loyal Wingman is designed to operate alongside and extend the capabilities of manned and unmanned platforms by means of artificial intelligence and configurable sensors. It has a range of 2,000 nm (2,301 mi, 3,704 km) and “fighter-like performance,” allowing it to carry out combat and reconnaissance missions.
“This project is an excellent example of innovation through collaboration and what can be achieved working together with defense industry,” says Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force. “This demonstrates the importance of the relationship Air Force has with Boeing Australia and defense industry more broadly. I look forward to exploring the capabilities this aircraft may bring to our existing fleet in the future.”
According to Boeing, the Loyal Wingman prototype will begin ground testing, then taxi tests leading up to its maiden flight later this year.
Dr. Hans C. Mumm