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Boeing to base ATS AI wingman drone production hub in Australia

Airpower Teaming System production
Photo: Boeing

The Australian government and US defense giant Boeing have entered into an agreement that will see the company establish an unmanned aircraft production hub in Queensland.

Boeing already has facilities established in northeastern Australia, but the new partnership with Boeing Australia means more high-skilled jobs, local supply opportunities and defense industry stimulus, Annastacia Palaszczuk, premier of Queensland, said.

“The creation of additional new aerospace capability could see unmanned defense aircraft produced here by the middle of the decade, with prototype testing and certification taking place before that,” the premier said.

“Our investment in this advanced manufacturing project will provide critical skills for suppliers, academia and Boeing, and culminate in Queensland becoming the primary final assembly facility for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, conditional on orders.”

The unmanned teaming aircraft is Boeing’s first military aircraft to be designed and developed outside the US and uses artificial intelligence to extend the capabilities of manned and unmanned platforms.

The first aircraft prototype, called the Loyal Wingman, was unveiled with the Royal Australian Air Force in May this year. It 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.

“Our government’s longstanding commitment to advanced manufacturing is one of the reasons Queensland is already home to Boeing’s largest workforce outside the United States,” Treasurer Cameron Dick said. Boeing has 1,700 staff in Queensland and supports 400 Queensland-based suppliers. Loyal Wingman will mean even more highly skilled advanced manufacturing jobs, further reinforcing Queensland’s status as a center for defense industries.”