Australia signs $115m deal with Boeing for Loyal Wingman drones

Australia signs $115m deal with Boeing for Loyal Wingman drones

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It is the first military combat aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years

Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has signed a $115 million contract to buy three more Loyal Wingman drones from Boeing, taking the total order to six aircraft. The country earlier committed $40 million for the drone program.

The deal was signed after the successful flight of the Loyal Wingman uncrewed aircraft. The first Loyal Wingman, which Boeing calls the Airpower Teaming System (ATS), took flight from Woomera Range Complex in South Australia on February 27.

RAAF Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, Australia’s head of air force capability, described the first flight as a significant step forward for the program.

“The Loyal Wingman project is a pathfinder for the integration of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence (AI) to create smart human-machine teams,” she said. “Through this project we are learning how to integrate these new capabilities to complement and extend air combat and other missions.”

Loyal Wingman is the “first military combat aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years,” according to Boeing. More than 35 Australian companies, including BAE Systems Australia, RUAG Australia, AME Systems and Ferra Engineering, are involved in the production of the aircraft.

“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,” Cath Roberts said.

Highlights

  • It measures 38 feet long (11.7m) has a 24 foot wingspan
  • Iy can provide fighter-like performance and is able to fly more than 2,000 nautical miles.
  • It has a removable nose that can be integrated with mission-specific sensors and other payloads.
  • The main purpose is to support intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, tactical early warning missions and more.
  • It can use AI to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft.

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