Boeing Australia announced that its team developing the Loyal Wingman-Advanced Development Program has completed the fuselage structure for the first of three prototype unmanned air vehicles it is building. The project—which was revealed in February 2019 at the Avalon airshow—is being undertaken in partnership with the Royal Australian Air Force and represents the first military aircraft to be developed in Australia for more than five decades.
The project forms the basis of Boeing’s Airpower Teaming System, and the Loyal Wingman prototypes with artificial intelligence will be used in manned-unmanned teaming tests, not only to inform the RAAF but also aid Boeing in its design of a potential production configuration.
“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.”
Boeing Australia leads a team of 16 Australian companies involved in the project, including BAE Systems Australia (flight control computers and navigation systems), Ruag Australia (landing gear), Ferra Engineering (precision components and sub-assemblies), and AME Systems (wiring looms). The team has applied digital engineering and advanced composite materials to the design of the 38-foot (11.7-meter) craft to meet cost and performance goals.
The completed fuselage will now be moved out of the assembly jig to stand on its landing gear while further systems are installed. First flight is scheduled for later this year.