The Boeing Australia team say they recently completed major fuselage structural assembly for the first Loyal Wingman drone.
The firm say that the aircraft is one of three prototypes that will be developed as a part of the Loyal Wingman – Advanced Development Program in partnership with the Royal Australian Air Force.
A ‘Loyal Wingman’ is a low-cost UAV that would be deployed alongside a manned aircraft to either act as a complementary asset or as a decoy to protect the crewed system from air defences. Due to their relatively low cost, these systems could be acquired and deployed en masse, providing a complementary asset that is ultimately expendable if required.
“This is an exciting milestone for the development program, and the Australian aerospace industry, as we progress with production of the first military aircraft to be developed in Australia in more than 50 years,” said Dr. Shane Arnott, program director, Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS).
“The partnership with Boeing is key to building our understanding of not just the operational implications for these sorts of vehicles, but also making us a smart customer as we consider options for manned-unmanned teaming in the coming decade,” said Air Commodore Darren Goldie, RAAF Director-General of Air Combat Capability.
“Boeing is progressing very well with its development and we look forward to seeing the final product in the coming months.”
The next major milestone will be weight on wheels, when the fuselage structure moves from the assembly jig to the aircraft’s own landing gear to continue systems installation and functional testing.
The aircraft is expected to complete its first flight this year.