Boeing’s Australian-designed Loyal Wingman unmanned combat aircraft will fly this year at Woomera, according to the IEEE Spectrum magazine. Author Ewen Levick says that Boeing will build three prototypes, the first of which will enter flight test later this year.
The Loyal Wingman, more formally known at Boeing as the Airpower Teaming System, is being designed and built in Australia by Boeing’s Phantom Works organisation. The RAAF is investing AUD$40 million in the project, but Boeing hasn’t said what its financial contribution will be.
Boeing chose to pursue this project in Australia after studying internally factors such as affordability, speed to market (having a good relationship with a strong customer helped) and industry capability. The RAAF plans to become one of the world’s first 5th generation air forces, employing things like AI and autonomous systems to enhance the reach and effect of both its combat and C4ISR assets. The Loyal Wingman project, which will use AI-enhance autonomy to extend the combat reach and survivability of the RAAF’s manned fighters, matches this ambition perfectly.
Boeing has not disclosed details of the Loyal Wingman’s navigation, sensor, AI, autonomous control and propulsion systems. Nor has it said anything about its projected performance beyond stating that it is 11m long, constructed mainly of composite materials, has low-observable shaping and coatings and a range of approximately 3,700km.