Boeing Australia powered up the commercial turbofan engine on the first Loyal Wingman aircraft in September, as part of ground testing and preparations for first flight. This milestone comes on the heels of Boeing completing the first Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) Loyal Wingman aircraft also known as Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS) for the Royal Australian Air Force earlier this year, a major step forward for the unmanned vehicle serving as the foundation for the global Boeing Airpower Teaming System, an artificial intelligence-powered teaming aircraft developed for the global defense market.
“This engine run gets us closer toward flying the first aircraft later this year and was successful thanks to the collaboration and dedication of our team,” said Dr. Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System. “We’ve been able to select a very light, off-the-shelf jet engine for the unmanned system as a result of the advanced manufacturing technologies applied to the aircraft.”
Sound on! Together with @AusAirForce, we ran the engine on our first #LoyalWingman unmanned aircraft. Powering on the engine is part of ground testing and preparations for first flight. #AirpowerTeaming pic.twitter.com/OmR2uAE8RO
— Boeing Australia (@BoeingAustralia) September 14, 2020
One role will be to support manned Royal Australian Air Force aircraft, such as the F-35, F/A-18E/F, and E-7A Wedgetail with the purpose of defence and surveillance. The UAV will be designed to act as a “loyal wingman” that is controlled by a parent aircraft to accomplish tasks such as scouting or absorbing enemy fire if attacked. The aircraft will be the first combat aircraft designed and developed in Australia in over half a century. Boeing has said that it will “depend on the market” whether the aircraft is manufactured in Queensland or the United States. The Royal Australian Air Force plans to buy three drones as part of the Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program.
The aircraft was previewed on 5 May 2020 by Boeing Australia with the release of images showing a detailed prototype of the aircraft and a video to illustrate the drones operational abilities. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “This is a truly historic moment for our country and for Australian defence innovation. 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.” The Royal Australian Air Force plans to initially buy three ATS systems as part of the Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program (LWADP). The engine test is part of ground testing to prepare for first flight by the end of 2020.