Boeing reveals Loyal Wingman unmanned support drone

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The Boeing-led Australian development team has rolled out the first unmanned Loyal Wingman aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force.

The aircraft is one of three prototypes that will be developed as a part of the Loyal Wingman program, which is one of the most advanced projects in the world to develop a manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) concept. Mostly being developed for military applications, MUM-T concepts involve a drone supporting and extending a piloted aircraft during missions.

“This is a truly historic moment for our country and for Australian defence innovation,” said the Prime Minister of Australia, 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.”

Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, said the rollout of the first aircraft was a significant milestone in the Boeing Loyal Wingman project.

“This project is an excellent example of innovation through collaboration and what can be achieved working together with defence industry,” said Air Marshal Hupfeld. “This demonstrates the importance of the relationship Air Force has with Boeing Australia and defence industry more broadly. I look forward to exploring the capabilities this aircraft may bring to our existing fleet in the future.”

The Loyal Wingman program involves 35 Australian companies. The aircraft has been developed using a digital twin to model its structures, systems, capabilities and full life-cycle requirements. It has also been manufactured with Boeing’s largest-ever resin-infused single composite piece and assembled using proven advanced manufacturing processes.

“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. 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.”

The Loyal Wingman prototype is undergoing ground testing, before its first taxi test and first flight later this year.

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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 20 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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