Boeing Australia says it powered up the commercial turbofan engine on the first Loyal Wingman aircraft this month, ahead of the aircraft’s first flight.
This milestone comes on the heels of the company completing the first of three unmanned Loyal Wingman aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force earlier this year. This is a major step forward for the unmanned vehicle serving as the foundation for the global Boeing Airpower Teaming System, an artificial intelligence-powered teaming aircraft developed for the global defense market.
“This engine run gets us closer toward flying the first aircraft later this year and was successful thanks to the collaboration and dedication of our team,” said Dr. Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System. “We’ve been able to select a very light, off-the-shelf jet engine for the unmanned system as a result of the advanced manufacturing technologies applied to the aircraft.”
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.