Boeing Australia announced on April 9 that it has achieved further milestones on the Royal Australian Air Force’s Loyal Wingman program with weight on wheels and aircraft power on.
The development milestones for the unmanned aircraft come just weeks after completion of the first fuselage, allowing for progress on systems installation and functional and integration testing from the aircraft’s own landing gear.
The prototype aircraft is expected to perform a first flight this year.
Australia’s Loyal Wingman program is aimed at developing an aircraft that will use artificial intelligence in teaming with other manned and unmanned platforms. The project is the Boeing’s largest investment in a new unmanned aircraft program outside the United States.
The aircraft is envisaged as being able to undertake a wide range of missions including ISR, but will also be able to be used to shield manned assets such as the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and Boeing E-7A Wedgetail early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft.
According to the company, the UAS is to provide “fighter-like performance”, measuring 38 feet long (11.7 meters) and able to fly more than 2,000 nautical miles.
“We’re continuing at pace toward our goal of flying later this year, so that we can show our customer and the world what unmanned capability like this can do,” said Dr. Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System. “The strong contributions from our industry team are powering our progress.”