On a day earlier this year that we can’t tell you, at a place in the outback we don’t know, a prototype aircraft without even a pilot flew for the first time – in what we can confirm was one of the most significant moments for Australia’s aviation industry in decades.
Loyal Wingman, fully unveiled to the world in May 2020, is the first military aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in this country in more than 50 years. It uses AI to fly alongside both manned and unmanned aircraft in mid-air, hence the project name. While not much is known about its full roles, it operates as a mini fighter capable of electronic warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Or, as Boeing’s Airpower Teaming System program director Shane Arnott explains, “It is better for one of these to take a hit than for a manned platform.”
Australia announced in March it would spend an extra $115 million to acquire three more Loyal Wingmans, doubling the size of the fleet to six. We’d tell you more, but the project is understandably shrouded in secrecy. But some things are just far cooler the less you know.