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Boeing unveils Australia’s Loyal Wingman prototype

Loyal Wingman UAV
Photo: Boeing

A Boeing-led Australian industry team has presented the first unmanned Loyal Wingman aircraft prototype for the Royal Australian Air Force, thee first military aircraft to be designed and built in Australia in more than 50 years.

The aircraft uses artificial intelligence to extend the capabilities of manned and unmanned platforms.

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 Australian government has invested up to AU$40 million in the Loyal Wingman, alongside 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 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.

With a range of over 3,700km, the aircraft will be used as a force-multiplier, helping to project power forward while keeping manned capabilities out of harm’s way.

The Loyal Wingman prototype now moves into ground testing, followed by taxi and first flight later this year.

“This is a truly historic moment for our country and for Australian defense innovation,” Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said. “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.”

Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, said the rollout of the first aircraft was a significant milestone in the project.

“This project is an excellent example of innovation through collaboration and what can be achieved working together with defence industry,” said Air Marshal Hupfeld. “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. 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 advanced manufacturing processes.