A Boeing-led Australian industry team today presented the first unmanned Loyal Wingman aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force – an historic milestone for the company and the Commonwealth.
CAPTION: Loyal Wingman prototype number one rolled out today – the first military aircraft designed and built in Australia for about 50 years. Boeing image.
Using artificial intelligence to extend the capabilities of manned and unmanned platforms, Loyal Wingman is the first military aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years.
It is Boeing’s largest investment in an unmanned aircraft outside of the United States.
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.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “This is a truly historic moment for our country and for Australian defence innovation”.
“The Loyal Wingman will be pivotal to exploring the critical capabilities our Air Force needs to protect our nation and its allies into the future.”
Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld said the rollout of the first aircraft was a significant milestone in the Boeing Loyal Wingman project.
“This project is an excellent example of innovation through collaboration and what can be achieved working together with defence industry,” Air Marshal Hupfeld said.
“This demonstrates the importance of the relationship Air Force has with Boeing Australia and defence industry more broadly.
“I look forward to exploring the capabilities this aircraft may bring to our existing fleet in the future.”
More than 35 members of Australian industry are supporting prototype work across four Australian states.
With a global market demand for highly capable but extremely affordable unmanned aircraft, Boeing said it applied company-wide innovation to achieve those goals.
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.
Vice president and general manager of Autonomous Systems for Boeing Defense, Space and Security Kristin Robertson said Boeing was 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.
“We look forward to getting the aircraft into flight testing and proving the unmanned teaming concept,” Mr Robertson said.
“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.”
The Loyal Wingman prototype now moves into ground testing, followed by taxi and first flight later this year.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Some media outlets are claiming the Loyal Wingman is the first Australian designed and built aircraft in 50 years. A quick Google search disproves this. The claim should more accurately say, “first Australian designed and built military aircraft in 50 years”.
That said, I was initially sceptical about the latter claim too, because I remember the GAF N22B Nomad in service in my day (1990s). But, the Nomad is indeed around 50 years old, with design work beginning in the mid-1960s, and its maiden flight on 23 July 1971.