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.

Image result for loyal wingman boeing

“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.”

Image result for boeing loyal wingman

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.

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Nigel Collins

What happened to the Taranis programme???

Australia seems to be doing a fantastic job of modernising its armed forces while we, once again, lag behind.

Nigel Collins

Ask a silly question!

“The official joint statement which came out of the bilateral summit at Sandhurst military college was “light,” and now there is just talk of a technology roadmap, which is where the companies were five or six years ago, he said. The industrial partners felt a “brake” applied by the British.

The project has not been cancelled but is on hold, he said.”


That article sounds somewhat contradictory depending upon who was being quoted. One moment its ‘holding back’ the next it would be ‘putting the cart before the horse’. Suppliers are said to be concerned about the apparent political delay then there is criticism of Bae for not apparently committing, seems a lot of smoke and mirrors here. As was speculated previously we discussed it, the Franco German collaboration on fighters and UAVs didn’t just come out of the blue due to any delay in this proposal and this proposal, knowing previous French duplicity needs perhaps to be re-assessed in light of… Read more »


I wonder what the price tag will be per unit? It looks a high end product from the renderings.


It is intended as and it’s success will be keeping low cost as its key driver. Having it support and act as a force multiplier to higher value (manned) assets will appeal particularly well with both modest and large airforces. The link here gives a better summary:


TwinTiger, agree. The growth potential for Loyal Wingman is sky high (pun intended!), coupled with the RAAFs ‘Plan Jericho’, the plan that is the first step for the RAAF to become a fully networked, agile and adaptive 5th Gen air force. Loyal Wingman won’t just operate with fast jet combat aircraft such as F-35A, F/A-18F and EA-18G, but also longer ranging RAAF assets such as E-7A, P-8A, KC-30A, MQ-4C and MC-55A too, and RAN assets with AEGIS and CEC armed with SM2, SM6, etc. It’s a big job for the RAAF (and Defence more broadly), but if they can get… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Will 216 Sqn end up with this?

Hopefully to actually use rather than spend the next decade testing.


I read the autobiography of Eric Brown recently, one of the most prolific test pilots of all time- an FAA pilot from WW2. Based on what I read there, I think he’d be horrified at how we spend so long testing a requirement that we know we need but cannot afford. All so that we aren’t left entirely behind, and the MOD have something to point at if questions are ever raised about why we don’t have a particular capability that everyone else is jumping on. Frustrating really. The book is a great read by the way, I’d thoroughly recommend… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Thanks Joe. I feel if I read it I would be even more frustrated than I already am!


Haha, I feel your hesitation- but I think on balance it should probably reinforce your pride in being British! As the only allied test pilot to fly the ME163 in powered flight, and the world record holder on number of carrier landings, he’s a pretty amazing bloke. The list of different aircraft types he flew took up several pages alone.


Loved the bit, where the USN wanted to take the record for most carrier landings and dedicated a guy full time to the task, who bottled it about 60% of the way to Winkle Browns record, most of which he did in dire conditions during the war. Defo worth reading his book


The guy was definitely a special breed, wasn’t his tally somewhere over 2,500 in the end?! As you say often in poor conditions, on smaller UK escort carriers and, on top of all that, for the purpose of testing aircraft for their suitability for carrier ops. By definition, no one knew if these aircraft would successfully make the landings or take-offs.
I was impressed that he flew so many experimental German jets, fully aware that the engines had a very finite life and could give out any minute…

Sceptical Richard

RAAF again ahead of the game…


S.R. Australia seem to have raised their game on defence while our government in power for the last 10 years have dropped the ball


These would be pretty cool, although I’d hesitate about buying any if they can’t be deployed from a carrier. That may seem like a stupid thing to say, but bear with me: We are seeking to be an expeditionary power for various reasons that don’t need to be gone into at the moment, that explicitly means carriers. These loyal wingmen are not going to be cheap and we have a very limited budget, to buy something that enables our first day strike and penetration of IADS and all of those things, but can’t be launched from our primary platform for… Read more »

Steve R

The carrier does seem to be the limiting factor for a lot of what we could or couldn’t put on them. STOVL has its advantages but also seems to really limit what we can put onto the ships.

It makes me wonder: would converting them to STOBAR make a big difference and how feasible and expensive would it be?

Matthew East

It would be a large undertaking but honestly one I was wondering why wasnt it being considered back years ago before they had even laid them down. Lacking at the very least even an angled flight deck just seemed to massively limit on deck operations, stupid really.

Steve R

You’re right it will be a large undertaking and probably expensive (though not as much as full cats & traps or EMALS) but, and I have no idea on this, how much impact would it have operationally if we were to convert to STOBAR?

The way I see it, in terms of fast jets we would still operate only the F35B but would it open up more options for us with drones etc? Could we operate E2 Hawkeye with STOBAR or does it need a catapult?

Matthew East

Oh even just operating F-35B’s it would open up options as it would allow for simultaneous launch and recovery rather then doing one or the other. Dont get me wrong an angled flight deck with STOBAR would have made the QE’s a world class carrier miles better then what they exist as of today. So while likely a large undertaking I dont think that should entirely cancel out a review in the technical and financial costs of performing such a rebuild. If doable in a reasonable time frame at a reasonable cost then the benefits will be worth it but… Read more »

Matthew East

They wont actually be that expensive. The basic aircraft its self is using already existing technology including commercial jet engines. Where the cost will come in is depending on what role you want it to perform but still using the USAF as an example of 2 to 3 million each with the RAAF/Boeing aircraft maybe 5 million USD (does appear to possibly be more capable and will likely have lower production mass)


I’d be wary given Boing’s hat-trick of cock-ups; 737 Max, KC-46, Starliner… The culture that management has put in place appears to be one of cost-cutting, shoddy practices, and no quality control.


The fundamental problem with the KC-46A is that Boeing subcontracted the refueling kit to Cobham.


The problem wouldn’t be the subcontracting, it would be Boeing not ensuring the work undertaken by subcontractors was up to par.
Though I’m pretty sure the incidents of the USAF finding tools rattling around inside their tankers were all down to Boeing staff not removing them after completing their work!!!


So hard to find good help these days….


Yes you have a point, but i think you need to consider that they have a large portfolio and have had a perfect storm of issues, that event will ensure far greater oversight and quality into their ongoing activities into the future. With regard to the Loyal Wingman program, it should be viewed in the light that it is Boeing Australia taking this lead, but supported by Boeing US. Consider also the recent Boeing Growler success in autonomously controlling 2 other Growlers in flight and you can start to see a clear picture of how close this is to becoming… Read more »


Sean, I agree that Boeing is standing in a deep soggy wet hole (in it’s own $hit) at the moment, no doubt about that, but I don’t think that ‘everything Boeing’ should be tarred with the same brush. For the RAAF, they are currently operating Boeing aircraft that have been (and still are) a great success, aircraft such as F/A-18F, EA-18G, P-7A, P-8A, C-17A (even the old Classic Hornets are still going strong in their last few years of service before being fully replaced by the LM F-35A). As for Loyal Wingman, that program is being run by Boeing Australia,… Read more »


It’s truly sad that a company like Boeing, with such a rich history of engineering quality products appears to have developed its current culture. The latest revelations about the software errors discovered by chance on the Starliner are shocking as a software developer. Had the capsule not had another software fault then the first manned flight would have ended in the probable loss of the crew when they separated the CM from the SM in preparation for reentry. While the majority of the blame lies with US corporate management, it’s clear when it comes to the 737 Max that engineers… Read more »


Boeing like BAE, an amalgamation of companies that use to be good at engineering and now make billion producing government power point presentations and in the case of Boeing with 737 Max and BAE with MRA4 f**king up old product that worked fine before.


worth noting that almost all the aircraft you outline are not actually Boeing but McDonald Douglas bought by Boeing.


This is not the same company and not the same culture – this is Boeing Defence Australia.


First Sea Lord Adm Radkin recently gave a speech stating that he wants to work with the RAF using HMS Prince of Wales to test large UAV’s from 2021.

I guess we need to put the second carrier to good use as most of the FAA will be deployed with HMS Queen Elizabeth! May be, just may be our armed services are beginning to take UAV’s and ROV’s in general more seriously…

Fingers crossed, but I ain’t hold’n’ me breath..! 🙂

Daniele Mandelli

Yes, I had spotted that UAV PoW reference.

Why not? People complaining there are two carriers and not enough aircraft for both, which was never the plan anyway.

Well, use the second as a UAV carrier with LPH if necessary ( though not
ideal )

Should be cheaper than manned aircraft?

Daniele Mandelli

Or have I just gone Fantasy Fleets mixed with Battlestar Galactica??

Steve Martin

Hey as long as the Cylons can’t hack the network you’re golden mate.

Daniele Mandelli

Lol. Assuming they can take off and land with PoW’s ramp, and no arrestor cables.

Steve Martin

Tall order from what I’ve read on here.


Plenty of rotary wing UAVs available, not to mention the Bell 247 Vigilant tilt-rotar UAV.
All of which could be used to beef up the surveillance, strike, ASW, etc options for the carriers.

Test them on PoW then equip both carriers to supplement the F35s, Merlins, etc.


we got 70,000 tonnes of carrier and no budget to buy any UAV’s worth putting on 70,000 tonnes of carrier. Better to use PoW in the LPH role its semi designed for. Very worth having something like Bell 247 but realistically its worth having on both carrier’s and the lack of budget to buy any will be the issue.


No budget currently, but if HMG can find £100bn to build a duplicate rail line to Brum of all places then maybe they can find some money to plug the current project funding holes and make some UAV purchases too…

Clearly the First Sea Lord thinks there will be funds for UAVs otherwise he wouldn’t be planning trials on PoW. Just hope it’s military spec drones with decent lift capacity and not the kind of drones Maplins used to try and sell before they went bust…


There could be been enough jets for both carriers if they actually deliver on the 138. My guess though that the number will keep being the head line figure but the order won’t ever actually arrive.


it will arrive once they cancel Tempest and retire the Typhoon. F16 has been in production for 40 years so its entirely conceivable that F35 will still be being produced well after 2050. Its likely the RAF will eventually end up with a small fleet of manned F35 E/F and a number of UAV/UCAV’s.


Will be interesting to see if Tempest or the F35 are remembered as the last manned combat aircraft we have before the RAF & FAA ultimately go fully UAV.

Daniele Mandelli

Also mentions Unmanned Warrior was in 2015!

So another 5 years of testing await?

James Fennell

Is there any overlap with the LANCA (lightweight affordable novel combat aircraft) demonstrator contracts announced last July under the RAF’s Project Mosquito’? I see Boeing are involved in both.


Just wondering aloud if the BATS will use the GE F404 jet engine? The RAAF will soon have a load of them coming available as they transfer a number of Hornet jets to Canada – who have their own surplus low mileage engines so don’t want the RAAF engines.



Good question, what will power Loyal Wingman? I seriously doubt we’ll see an existing military engine such as the RAAF Hornets GE F404s, they will probably be sold off to Canada with all the other spares. The F404 is rather old tech too.

I would suspect that it will be a modern efficient engine used by modern biz jets (engines such as the Rolls-Royce AE3007), which by the way is also used by MQ-4C Triton and is also to be used in the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray.

Just my opinion of course.



I hear you, however as the AE3007 has only powered sub-sonic jets, so it will not match the cruise speed of manned supersonic jets it intends to support. The GE-F404 now powers the new Red Hawk, the Golden Eagle and the Tejas, as well as the Hornet and other supersonic jets, so it seems an economical option for BATS and there will be many more surplus F404s, (as Canada will only take 25 Hornets), plus production is still ongoing.


But how do you know that Loyal Wingman is supposed to be supersonic? I haven’t read anything anywhere to indicate that. Combat fast jets only go supersonic for a short period of time, if they kept the burners running too long they would run out of gas!! The suggestion that I’ve read in various media reports, is that Loyal Wingman is supposed to have an operational range of 2000nmi or 3700km (range not radius), the airframe is only going to be around the size of an F-16, there is simply no way that an aircraft of that size can carry… Read more »


Hi JohnN, Janes has been specific about the RAAF intentions that it is intended to support specifically the F-35A and F/A-18F/G: The cruise speed (not top speed) of those manned jets are about 0.85M-0.95M, so assuming that these craft will be entering hostile territory, the BATS will need to keep pace en-route – but I (like you perhaps) don’t expect them to be supersonic except perhaps in bursts, however they need to be using fuel efficiently, meaning they need to be able to cruise at about the same speed as the manned jets without it pushing their engines at… Read more »


TwinTiger, mate, I don’t disagree that Loyal Wingman is going to be operating with the RAAFs fast jets, F-35A, Growler, Super Hornet, and it’s also to likely operate with E-7A, P-8A, etc, no argument. But it still doesn’t mean that the aircraft has to be capable of supersonic flight, no where in that Janes article (or any other article I’ve seen) is it said or suggested that the aircraft will have to be supersonic. Best thing to do is to look at the “equivalent” USAF version of what is being done here in Oz, and that is the XQ-58 Valkyrie:… Read more »