The Australian government has agreed to co-develop a further three Loyal Wingman aircraft with Boeing to advance the air-teaming vehicle, payloads and associated support and training capabilities.
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. It has a 2,000 nautical mile (3,704 km) range and a nose that can be removed to fit various payloads, including weapons.
The agreement signed today will increase the aircraft’s production capability to six aircraft for Royal Australian Air Force and is valued at $115 million over three years. The Loyal Wingman is the first military combat aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years.
The contract will support the maturation of the aircraft design, evolution of current and future payloads, and create the sustainment system for the aircraft in operations. It will also advance Airpower Teaming System advanced concepts through digital testing and demonstration.
“In addition to progressing the air vehicle design and support system, we will further develop the aircraft’s mission system including advanced AI decision-making capabilities and new payloads,” said Dr. Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.
On Monday, the company said that the Loyal Wingman pilotless fighter-like jet completed its first flight.
Boeing said additional Loyal Wingman aircraft are currently under development, with plans for teaming flights scheduled for later this year. The plane maker has previously said up to 16 of the Loyal Wingman jets could be teamed with a crewed aircraft for missions.