Boeing said today that Australia’s Queensland will be the production centre of the Loyal Wingman drones.
The 38-foot (11.7-meter) Loyal Wingman (Boeing Airpower Teaming System) drone is designed to use artificial intelligence (AI) in teaming with other manned and unmanned platforms.
Fuselage structural assembly of the first Loyal Wingman was completed in February. On May 5, Boeing presented the aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
“Our investment in this advanced manufacturing project will provide critical skills for suppliers, academia and Boeing, and culminate in Queensland becoming the primary final assembly facility for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, conditional on orders,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said. “The unmanned teaming aircraft is Boeing’s first military aircraft to be designed and developed outside the U.S and uses artificial intelligence to extend the capabilities of manned and unmanned platforms.”
It is the first military aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years, the company noted.
“Manufacturing is a vital part of the Queensland economy, which is why supporting manufacturing is one of the centrepieces of our Unite and Recover Economic Recovery Plan,” Treasurer Cameron Dick remarked.
Boeing has never disclosed exactly where it has built the first Loyal Wingman. The company has 1,700 staff in Queensland and supports 400 Queensland-based suppliers.
Both Boeing Defence Australia and Boeing Research & Technology Australia are located in Brisbane. It also has an aerostructures production facility in the state of Victoria.
During the Avalon Airshow in 2019, former Australian defence minister Christopher Pyne said that the government had invested A$40 million ($28.7 million) in the programme.
In mid-September, Boeing said it powered up the commercial turbofan engine on the first Loyal Wingman aircraft as part of ground testing and preparations for first flight.