Queensland is poised to take another bold step in aerospace and advanced manufacturing with an historic opportunity to be the final production home for unmanned defence aircraft – the first military aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said a visionary new partnership with Boeing Australia means more high-skilled jobs, local supply opportunities and defence industry stimulus as Queensland continues to recover and grow from the COVID downturn. The first aircraft prototype, called the Loyal Wingman, was unveiled with the Royal Australian Air Force in May this year.
“The creation of additional new aerospace capability could see unmanned defence aircraft produced here by the middle of the decade, with prototype testing and certification taking place before that,” the premier said.“We are carrying out our plan to recover and grow, including into new industries, and it’s very important that we do that not just as a government but with key partnerships. Our investment in this advanced manufacturing project will provide critical skills for suppliers, academia and Boeing, and culminate in Queensland becoming the primary final assembly facility for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, conditional on orders.”
Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific President Brendan Nelson said,”The partnership with the Queensland government to develop an advanced manufacturing capability was a significant milestone for the company. “It’s one that will build cutting-edge skills to stimulate the innovation ecosystem in Queensland. This includes introducing technologies such as advanced robotics; investment in universities, small-to-medium enterprises and start-up companies; as well as creating global export opportunities for Australia’s supply chain. This investment could unlock global defence and aerospace opportunities for Queensland to gain future work share in other Boeing programs.”
The Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS), also known as the Boeing Loyal Wingman project, is a stealth unmanned aerial vehicle in development by Boeing Australia to perform autonomous missions using artificial intelligence. 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.