A Boeing-led Australian industry team has presented the first unmanned Loyal Wingman aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force, a historic milestone for the company.

The aircraft, which uses artificial intelligence to extend the capabilities of manned and unmanned platforms, is the first to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years. It is Boeing’s largest investment in an unmanned aircraft outside of the United States.

As the first of three prototypes for Australia’s Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program, the aircraft also serves as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS) being developed for the global defense market.

“This is a truly historic moment for our country and for Australian defence innovation,” said the Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister of Australia.

“The Loyal Wingman will be pivotal to exploring the critical capabilities our Air Force needs to protect our nation and its allies into the future.”

Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, said the rollout of the first aircraft was a significant milestone in the Boeing Loyal Wingman project.

“This project is an excellent example of innovation through collaboration and what can be achieved working together with defence industry,” said Air Marshal Hupfeld. “This demonstrates the importance of the relationship Air Force has with Boeing Australia and defence industry more broadly. I look forward to exploring the capabilities this aircraft may bring to our existing fleet in the future.”

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.

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It’s the future. Both in aviation and naval operations. Wonder when the USN fighter mafia will admit defeat and get a carrier based version to complement their manned aircraft?



And just where is the US Navy going to find the room to house these wingmen which are 2/3rds the length of a Super Hornet when it already has to find room for its MQ-25 tankers?


USN carriers routinely deploy with ~ 70% of aircraft capability on board. I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to shoehorn in additional airframes.


Nigel Collins

No doubt this will be of interest to Germany as well?

“The US Navy and Boeing recently announced the successful demonstration of two autonomously controlled EA-18G Growlers during the Navy Warfare Development Command’s annual fleet experiment (FLEX) at Patuxent River. The experiment involved the Growlers acting as unmanned systems under the control of a third Growler to prove the effectiveness of F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircrew to remotely control fighter and attack platforms from the cockpit.

It follows that a F-15EX Loyal Wingman would fit into a similar manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) mission system architecture.”



And where will the UK be in the ‘loyal wingmen’ race? That was mentioned a lot in the Tempest project, but we seem to be years behind Australia.

Nigel Collins

In the pipeline at some point in time possibly.



I think Taranis has been shelved for Tempest. Originally it was meant to replace the Tornado, now Tempest is expected to replace the Typhoon. The government it full of ideas it never plans to execute.

Nigel Collins

I tend to agree with you.

Leading the field then falling behind seems to be the order of the day sadly.

Sean Crowley

Am Australian Taranis was flying here out of Woomera , that is over 2 years ago , this thing is yet to fly but will be using the knowledge learnt when on the range thanks to the English , so yeah you guys seem always able to steal defeat from the Jaws of victory .


I know it cracks me up, once they proved it was able to take off, fly and land safely (probably in ideal weather only) they should have ordered a batch of 24-48 to continue testing and upgrading them knowing we would have the option to use them in anger if necessary.

Nigel Collins

It was controlled with a Typhoon and flew autonomous missions as well.


Daniele Mandelli

It’s an old trick. Why fund the front line now when you can pump hundreds of millions into future systems, then cut them before they arrive? Examples – Last 2 T45 to “speed up” T26. Which is taking 7 years for first build, and has been cut to 8, and probably further. Another – over 1 Billion spent on FRES without a single vehicle to show for it in a decade of faffing, appraisals, and assessments. Probably plenty of others if I could be bothered. All this time the current forces go without. I’d love to see a total amount… Read more »

Nigel Collins

Exactly, and a point well made.


Agree the UK need to get better an turning defence investments in to product that can be sold not just to the MoD but to other countries. We then get boast in GDP from these sales which means that 2% of GDP is larger monetary value. We’re starting to see some thinking along these lines with MRTT, A400, T26 and T31. Hawk was good example but nothing was reinvested into a follow on product by BAe. But unfortunately theirs been too many bespoke or failed defence investments that reap no return for the UK and in some cases create a… Read more »


Zero has happened on Taranis for seven years. It’s over.