By Helicopters Staff
A Boeing-led Australian industry team on May 4 presented the first prototype Loyal Wingman unmanned aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force. As the first of three prototypes planned for Australia’s Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program, the aircraft also serves as the foundation for Boeing’s Airpower Teaming System (ATS) aimed at the global defense market.
The prototype unveiling comes after the Loyal Wingman team in mid-April announced the program achieved weight-on-wheels and aircraft-power-on milestones, with the first aircraft fuselage completed in February. The Loyal Wingman prototype now moves into ground testing, followed by taxi and first flight later this year.
Boeing explains the aircraft, which uses artificial intelligence to extend the capabilities of manned and unmanned platforms, is the first to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years. It also represents Boeing’s largest investment in an unmanned aircraft outside of the United States.
“This is a truly historic moment for our country and for Australian defence innovation,” said Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia. “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.”
More than 35 members of Australian industry are supporting prototype work for the Loyal Wingman across four Australian states. Boeing explains the aircraft was engineered using a digital twin to model its structures, systems, capabilities and life-cycle requirements; manufactured with Boeing’s largest-ever resin-infused single composite piece.
“This project is an excellent example of innovation through collaboration and what can be achieved working together with defence industry,” said Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force. “This demonstrates the importance of the relationship Air Force has with Boeing Australia and defence industry more broadly.”
Unveiled in February 2019, the 11.7-metre Loyal Wingman aircraft is expected to have a range of 2,000 nm (3,704 kms). It will be available for Five Eyes partners in addition to the Royal Australian Air Force.