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Boeing Delivers First ‘Loyal Wingman’ Drone Prototype for Testing

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Boeing Delivers First ‘Loyal Wingman’ Drone Prototype for Testing

Boeing Australia has built the first of three Loyal Wingman aircraft, which will serve as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System being developed for the global defense market. The aircraft are designed to fly alongside existing platforms and use artificial intelligence to conduct teaming missions. (Boeing photo)

7 May 2020
Military.com | By Oriana Pawlyk

The Royal Australian Air Force has its first Boeing-built drone-jet hybrid prototype, which will use artificial intelligence to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions to supply fighter pilots with more information during a conflict.

The company delivered its first "loyal wingman" prototype to Australia this week; it is expected to be used in tandem with fourth- and fifth-generation fighters on the battlefield, officials said in a release.

It's also the first aircraft "to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years," Boeing said, adding that it's the company's "largest investment in an unmanned aircraft outside of the United States."

Related: Boeing Unveils Fighter Drone that Could Play Wingman to Manned Jets

"This is a truly historic moment for our country and for Australian defence innovation," said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. "The Loyal Wingman will be pivotal to exploring the critical capabilities our Air Force needs to protect our nation and its allies into the future."

The delivery in Sydney is the first of three for Australia's Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program, officials said.

The aircraft, which Boeing is co-developing with the government of Australia, was unveiled at the Avalon Airshow last year. Australia is investing roughly $40 million into the program, CNN reported.

The jet is 38 feet long and can fly more than 2,000 nautical miles, according to its fact sheet.

It uses artificial intelligence "to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft, the fact sheet states. The first prototype was constructed using digital engineering concepts, allowing developers to simulate parts via computer models, according to the company.

"We are proud to take this significant step forward with the Royal Australian Air Force and show the potential for smart unmanned teaming to serve as a force multiplier," said Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Autonomous Systems for Boeing Defense, Space & Security.

"We look forward to getting the aircraft into flight testing and proving out the unmanned teaming concept," Robertson said. The drone-jet will now begin ground testing, followed by a first flight later this year.

"We see global allies with those same mission needs, which is why this program is so important to advancing the development of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System," she said.

The concept is similar to an ongoing U.S. military effort.

The U.S. Air Force has been working to develop its own "Loyal Wingman" program, featuring unmanned fighters that could think autonomously sent out alongside F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, for example, to scout enemy territory ahead of a strike, or to gather intel for the aircraft formation.

In January, the Air Force conducted test flights of the XQ-58A Valkyrie drone at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, taking the unmanned aerial vehicle, made by Kratos Defense, to higher altitudes than previous tests.

The drone is part of the Air Force's Low-Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program, an effort to develop unmanned attack aircraft, which are intended to be reusable but cheap enough that they can be destroyed without significant cost.



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All I know is, keep those retirement checks coming. Firth of the months. Was a great place to work for. 

Now, back on subject.....

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I see the Australia government invested $40 million in this project.  Wow. they really went all in.


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  • 4 months later...

"The age of the unmanned combat jet is a step closer after Boeing Australia announced that its Loyal Wingman aircraft has fired up its engine for the first time."







The age of the unmanned combat jet is a step closer after Boeing Australia announced that its Loyal Wingman aircraft has fired up its engine for the first time. On an undisclosed date this month, the autonomous drone powered up its commercial turbofan engine in anticipation of its first test flight.

Being developed for the global defense market as well as primary customer, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Loyal Wingman is the first of three class prototypes to be built under Australia's Advanced Development Program, which aims to produce jet-powered, autonomous, artificial-intelligence-powered teaming aircraft that can fly alongside UAVs and manned combat aircraft.

The current program involves a coalition of 16 Australian industries, which are using digital engineering, advanced composite materials, and configurable sensors to build the 38-ft-long (11.7-m) drone. Once completed, the Loyal Wingman will have a range of 2,000 nm (2,301 mi, 3,704 km) and fighter-like performance.

Loyal Wingman uses a commercial turbofan engine

Boeing Australia

The offensive armaments package for the Loyal Wingman has yet to be determined, but it will include electronic warfare systems and sensor packages for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.

"This engine run gets us closer toward flying the first aircraft later this year and was successful thanks to the collaboration and dedication of our team," says Dr. Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System. "We’ve been able to select a very light, off-the-shelf jet engine for the unmanned system as a result of the advanced manufacturing technologies applied to the aircraft."

The video below shows Loyal Wingman bringing its engine online for the first time.



Edited by lamoe
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No doubt it's a little cheaper and faster to make than the F35. 

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40 minutes ago, to_dave007 said:

No doubt it's a little cheaper and faster to make than the F35. 

...and undoubtedly can take more G's in a turn. The human pilot is the only thing holding back a lot of fighters from being more agile. Pilots tend to pass out at high G's, turning a fighter into a target.

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38 minutes ago, to_dave007 said:

No doubt it's a little cheaper and faster to make than the F35. 

Top Gun did a test of latest air superiority fighter (not F-35) vs older ones - forget which versions of each.

 1 to 1, latest won every time - but 6 to 1 lost every time  with 1 to 3 of older ones lost.

Wonder if "pilot" will have to be an officer?


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