Boeing Loyal wingman uncrewed aircraft completes first flight

The first military aircraft designed and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years has flown from the Woomera Range Complex.

Boeing Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) have completed the first test flight of the Loyal Wingman uncrewed aircraft while supervised by a Boeing test pilot.

RAAF Head of Air Force Capability, Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts said the flight was a major step as part of a long-term project between the RAAF and Boeing Australia.

“The Loyal Wingman project is a pathfinder for the integration of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence to create smart human-machine teams,” she said.

“Through this project we are learning how to integrate these new capabilities to complement and extend air combat and other missions.”

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. It then flew a pre-determined route at different speeds and altitudes, and verified flight functionality and demonstrate the performance of the Airpower Teaming System design.

Boeing Defence, Space and Security president and CEO, Leanne Caret, said Boeing and Australia are pioneering fully integrated combat operations by crewed and uncrewed aircraft.

“We’re honoured 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,” she said.

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.

This first Loyal Wingman aircraft is serving as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System being developed for various global defence customers. The aircraft will fly alongside other platforms, using artificial intelligence to team with existing crewed and uncrewed assets to complement mission capabilities.

More Loyal Wingman aircraft are currently under development, with plans for teaming flights scheduled for later this year.

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