Boeing has finally unveiled the first of three prototypes in its unmanned ‘Loyal Wingman’ program – the first military aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years.
The 11.5-metre-long, artificially intelligent device will now move onto ground testing, followed by test flights later this year.
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.”
The ground-breaking prototype is not a remotely controlled drone but instead uses artificial intelligence to help both manned and unmanned aircraft in mid-air, hence the Australian project name Loyal Wingman.
Around the world, it will known as the Boeing Airpower Teaming System (BATS).
It was manufactured with Boeing’s largest-ever resin-infused single composite piece and engineered using a digital twin to model its structures, systems and capabilities.
BATS program director Dr Shane Arnott said, “The Loyal Wingman is a historic development program for the Australian aerospace industry, Boeing and our entire industry team, and we’ve worked together with speed and agility to deliver this smart unmanned aircraft.
“We’ve leveraged the skills of the local supply chain to build a Loyal Wingman that will work together with other airpower teaming assets to provide an unmatched capability for Australia and for our global customers.
“The BATS platform is shaping up to be a potent addition to the Royal Australian Air Force’s airpower capabilities, working with platforms like the F-35, Super Hornet, Growler and E-7 Wedgetail, the most exciting piece is the growing interest from key allies serving as a powerful example of Australia’s growing defence manufacturing base.”
Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, Chief of the RAAF, said, “This project is an excellent example of innovation through collaboration and what can be achieved working together with defence industry. 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.”