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Chief of Air Force talks prepping for Loyal Wingman’s first flight

written by Adam Thorn | July 30, 2020

The Loyal Wingman prototype
The Boeing Loyal Wingman prototype has finally been unveiled (Boeing)

The Chief of Air Force has revealed his team is discussing how to program the AI of the Loyal Wingman aircraft to behave in high-pressure combat situations.

Speaking exclusively to host Phil Tarrant on the Australia Aviation Podcast, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld said, “The heart of it is about the systems that are inside that platform. The artificial intelligence that we will start to put into there, the opportunity to program algorithms that allow it to do what we call manned and unmanned teaming.

“How does an aircraft, without a pilot in it, sit there along an F-18 or an F-35, or an E-7, for that matter, and fly in formation and share sensor information with the ground station?”

The ground-breaking Loyal Wingman is not a remotely controlled drone but instead uses artificial intelligence to help both manned and unmanned aircraft in mid-air, hence its Australian project name.


Around the world, it will be 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.

AIRMSHL Hupfeld revealed some of the high-level policy and strategy discussions taking place around the aircraft – and how it will behave in dangerous situations.

“Being able to pull that in, [we ask] how does the platform behave? And what’s the brain in the platform that allows it to do all that and analyse all that information? And then when it’s told when it’s the right time to be able to move forward and engage with an adversary, whether that’s just through other means, short of conflict,” he said.

“And then, of course, at the higher-end if it was required, to be able to shoot a weapon.

“It’s those things that are complex, and how we integrate all that together, and with an understanding of how we would utilise it in a modern strategic environment.”

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Comment (1)

  • Tomcat Terry


    Will be interesting to see if future strategies and operational requirements have squadrons of these aircraft, fully automatic and flying by AI only, all on their own. That would increase the range or reach than if they were accompanied by a manned F35 for instance. I’m sure that’s one of multiple awesome potential strategies this groundbreaking technology can be utilised for.

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