Boeing Australia achieves milestone in military aircraft build

Photo: Boeing Australia

The global aerospace manufacturer’s Australian team recently completed major fuselage structural assembly towards the first military aircraft to be developed in Australia in more than 50 years – the Loyal Wingman.

“This is an exciting milestone for the development program, and the Australian aerospace industry, as we progress with production of the first military aircraft to be developed in Australia in more than 50 years,” program director, Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS), Dr. Shane Arnott, said.

The aircraft is one of three prototypes that will be developed as a part of the Loyal Wingman – Advanced Development Program in partnership with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

The Australian team has applied digital engineering and advanced composite materials to achieve cost and agility goals for the 38-foot (11.7-meter) aircraft, which is designed to use artificial intelligence in teaming with other manned and unmanned platforms.

“Boeing is progressing very well with its development and we look forward to seeing the final product in the coming months,” RAAF director-general of Air Combat Capability, Air Commodore Darren Goldie, said.

“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.”

A16-strong Australian industry team was critical to the program’s rapid development, according to Arnott. The team included:

  • BAE Systems Australia, who delivered hardware kits including flight control computers and navigation equipment;
  • RUAG Australia, who delivered the landing gear system
  • Ferra Engineering, who delivered precision machine components and sub-assemblies to support the program; and
  • AME Systems, who have delivered wiring looms to support the vehicle.

This first Loyal Wingman prototype will provide key lessons toward production of the ATS, which Boeing Australia is developing for the global defence market. Boeing’s customers will be able to tailor ATS sensors and systems based on their own defence and industrial objectives.

The next major milestone will be weight on wheels, when the fuselage structure moves from the assembly jig to the aircraft’s own landing gear to continue systems installation and functional testing. The aircraft is expected to complete its first flight this year.