Boeing Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) have successfully completed the first test flight of the Loyal Wingman uncrewed aircraft. The flight of the first military aircraft to be designed and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years flew under the supervision of a Boeing test pilot monitoring the aircraft from a ground control station at the Woomera Range Complex. Following a series of taxi tests validating ground handling, navigation and control, and pilot interface, the aircraft completed a successful takeoff under its own power before flying a pre-determined route at different speeds and altitudes to verify flight functionality and demonstrate the performance of the Airpower Teaming System design.
“Boeing and Australia are pioneering fully integrated combat operations by crewed and uncrewed aircraft,” said Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Leanne Caret. “We’re honored to be opening this part of aviation’s future with the Royal Australian Air Force, and we look forward to showing others how they also could benefit from our loyal wingman capabilities.”
“The Loyal Wingman’s first flight is a major step in this long-term, significant project for the Air Force and Boeing Australia, and we’re thrilled to be a part of the successful test,” said Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, RAAF Head of Air Force Capability. “The Loyal Wingman project is a pathfinder for the integration of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence to create smart human-machine teams. Through this project we are learning how to integrate these new capabilities to complement and extend air combat and other missions.”
This first Loyal Wingman aircraft is serving as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System being developed for various global defense customers. The aircraft will fly alongside other platforms, using artificial intelligence to team with existing crewed and uncrewed assets to complement mission capabilities. With support from more than 35 Australian industry teams and leveraging Boeing’s innovative processes, including model-based engineering techniques, such as a digital twin to digitally flight-test missions, the team was able to manufacture the aircraft from design to flight in three years. Additional Loyal Wingman aircraft are currently under development, with plans for teaming flights scheduled for later this year.
The Loyal Wingman project, also known as the Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS), is a stealth unmanned aerial vehicle in development by Boeing Australia to perform autonomous missions using artificial intelligence. The Loyal Wingman is an unmanned aircraft with an interchangeable nose cone which can be quickly interchanged with other modules for a new mission and incorporates artificial intelligence. One role will be to support manned Royal Australian Air Force aircraft, such as the F-35A, F/A-18F, and E-7A 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.