In late February, Boeing Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) successfully completed the first test flight of the Loyal Wingman uncrewed aircraft. Following the flight test, the Australian government purchased three additional air-teaming UAVs, payloads and associated support and training capabilities. This increases the Loyal Wingman’s production capability to six aircraft for Royal Australian Air Force and is valued at $115 million over three years.
Following a series of taxi tests in 2020 in preparation for first flight, validating ground handling, navigation and control, and pilot interface, the aircraft completed a successful takeoff under its own power and then flew a pre-determined route at different speeds and altitudes to verify flight functionality and demonstrate the performance of the Airpower Teaming System design.
The Boeing Airpower Teaming System, aka Loyal Wingman, will provide a disruptive advantage for allied forces’ manned and unmanned missions. Measuring 38 feet long (11.7m) and able to fly more than 2,000 nautical miles, it will provide fighter-like performance. The Loyal Wingman integrates onboard sensor packages to support intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, tactical early warning missions and more. It uses artificial intelligence to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft.
The Loyal Wingman is the first military combat aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years. “The Australian government’s continued investment in the innovative Loyal Wingman program will create jobs and opportunities for over 35 Australian suppliers and small businesses, including BAE Systems Australia, RUAG Australia, AME Systems and Ferra Engineering,” said Dr. Brendan Nelson, president of Boeing Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific.
The contract supports the maturation of the aircraft design, evolution of current and future payloads, and creates the sustainment system for the aircraft in operations. It will also advance Airpower Teaming System advanced concepts through digital testing and demonstration.
“In addition to progressing the air vehicle design and support system, we will further develop the aircraft’s mission system including advanced AI decision-making capabilities and new payloads,” said Dr. Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.
“Continued digital engineering and significantly expanded live testing of the system will provide RAAF and Boeing with the ability to jointly take the concept to the next level, activities that are critical for us to rapidly understand how the Airpower Teaming System can be employed in the future battlespace.”