Boeing has announced its Loyal Wingman prototype has completed its first test flight, marking one of the most significant moments in the history of Australian aviation.
The planemaker said it took off “under its own power before flying a pre-determined route at different speeds and altitudes”. See our video, below.
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 said it flew under the supervision of one of its test pilots, who monitored the aircraft from a ground control station at the Woomera Range Complex.
“The Loyal Wingman’s first flight is a major step in this long-term, significant project for the Air Force and Boeing Australia, and we’re thrilled to be a part of the successful test,” said Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, RAAF Head of Air Force Capability.
“The Loyal Wingman project is a pathfinder for the integration of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence to create smart human-machine teams.
“Through this project we are learning how to integrate these new capabilities to complement and extend air combat and other missions.”
“Boeing and Australia are pioneering fully integrated combat operations by crewed and uncrewed aircraft,” said Boeing Defense, Space & Security president and CEO Leanne Caret. “We’re honored to be opening this part of aviation’s future with the Royal Australian Air Force, and we look forward to showing others how they also could benefit from our loyal wingman capabilities.”
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The news comes just months after the aircraft completed its first high-speed taxi in a “remote test location” in Australia, which followed its first, slower taxi in October 2020 and after it had powered up the commercial turbofan engine in September 2020.
More than 35 members of Australian industry are supporting prototype work across four Australian states, while Queensland will house the final assembly facility for finished aircraft.