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.
“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,” she said.
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.”
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 defense customers. The aircraft will fly alongside other platforms, using artificial intelligence to team with existing crewed and uncrewed assets to complement mission capabilities. Additional Loyal Wingman aircraft are currently under development, with plans for teaming flights scheduled for later this year.
Boeing unveiled its newest unmanned platform “Loyal Wingman”, the Boeing Airpower Teaming System on march 2019. Designed for global defense customers by Boeing Australia, it is the company’s largest investment in a new unmanned aircraft program outside the United States. The aircraft will complement and extend airborne missions through smart teaming with existing military aircraft.
A model of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System was unveiled at the Avalon 2019 Australian International Airshow by the Australian Minister for Defence, the Hon. Christopher Pyne MP. As a research and development activity, the Australian Government and Boeing will produce a concept demonstrator called the Loyal Wingman – Advanced Development Program that will provide key learnings toward the production of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.
Boeing’s Loyal Wingman program achieves also the “Weight on Wheels” milestone on April 9, 2020 and completed major fuselage structural assembly for the first Loyal Wingman prototype, on March 10, 2020. The first powered up of the commercial turbofan engine was made in September 2020 and the first high-speed taxi test was achieved on the end of December 2020.
The Airpower Teaming System is the first unmanned aircraft designed and built by Boeing outside the USA. The Boeing Airpower Teaming System is a new unmanned aircraft using artificial intelligence to be that force multiplier. It’s designed to work as a smart team with existing military aircraft to complement and extend airborne missions from ISR to electronic warfare and more but with a low-cost design that allows operators to confidently put it on the front line.
This first Loyal Wingman prototype will provide key lessons toward production of the ATS, which Boeing Australia is developing for the global defense market. Customers will be able to tailor ATS sensors and systems based on their own defense and industrial objectives.