Boeing has confirmed that Queensland will house the final assembly facility for its Loyal Wingman AI aircraft.
The state hopes to have the UAV, also known as Boeing Airpower Teaming System, produced at the factory by the middle of the decade, with prototype testing and certification happening before that.
Boeing has also hinted the deal could lead to further work heading to Queensland in the future.
Loyal Wingman, fully unveiled to the world in May, is the first military aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years.
It uses AI to help both manned and unmanned aircraft in mid-air, hence the Australian project name Loyal Wingman.
Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific president Brendan Nelson said the partnership will allow the business to “build cutting-edge skills to stimulate the innovation ecosystem in Queensland”.
“This includes introducing technologies such as advanced robotics; investment in universities, small-to-medium enterprises and start-up companies; as well as creating global export opportunities for Australia’s supply chain,” said Nelson.
“This investment could unlock global defence and aerospace opportunities for Queensland to gain future work share in other Boeing programs.”
Queensland 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 centre for defence industries.”
Last month, Boeing announced it had powered up the commercial turbofan engine on the first Loyal Wingman, a crucial milestone in preparing for its first flight.
Dr Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, said, “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.
“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.”
More than 35 members of Australian industry are supporting prototype work across four Australian states.
The Loyal Wingman prototype now moves into ground testing, followed by taxi and first flight in late-2020.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the unveiling of three prototypes a “truly historic moment for our country”.
“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,” PM Morrison said.
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.”
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