BAE Systems has unveiled its Australian-developed drone it believes could become the Loyal Wingman for military helicopters.
The business said STRIX could be used for a variety of missions, including air-to-ground strikes against hostile targets or surveillance.
Loyal Wingman is the old project name for the Boeing drone that will autonomously fly alongside crewed fighter jets, such as the F-35.
It’s the first military aircraft to be designed, engineered and built in Australia in more than 50 years and has been hailed by the US Air Force.
BAE Systems helicopter equivalent is designed to carry up to a 160-kilogram payload over 800 kilometres while also being capable of operating in high-risk environments.
The platform incorporates a collapsed footprint of 2.6m x 4.5m and could be easily transported in a standard shipping container.
Meanwhile, its VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) capability means STRIX could be used without relying on an airfield, with the platform also able to operate from a helicopter.
BAE Systems Australia CEO Ben Hudson said at AVALON on Tuesday that STRIX leverages existing technologies but is upgradable in response to emerging threats.
“STRIX could be ready for operational service as soon as 2026, and work is already underway on a STRIX prototype,” he said. “We’re excited that this is the first UAS of its kind to be developed in Australia and look forward to working with partners across the country to deliver this capability to customers.”
BAE partnered with Perth-based Innovaero, with the industry collaboration combining BAE Systems’ global expertise in autonomous platforms and its vehicle management system (VMS) technology with Innovaero’s knowledge of aeronautical product design and manufacture in the Australian market.
STRIX will look to increase Australian sovereign capability by leveraging domestic expertise, such as Innovaero’s aircraft concept design and rapid prototyping.
There will also be opportunities for wider Australian small and medium-sized enterprises and academia to get involved in the development, delivery, and flight test of the prototype.
STRIX will have the capacity to accommodate a range of munition types, including those currently in service with the Australian Defence Force.
BAE Systems Australia will also deliver a new low-cost precision-guided munition, known as RAZER, which could be integrated onto the platform to complement STRIX’s strike capability.