Military, Unmanned

Loyal Wingman Takes First Flight in Australia

By Kelsey Reichmann | March 2, 2021
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The Loyal Wingman completed its first test flight. (Boeing)

The Loyal Wingman completed a successful test flight, Boeing Australia announced in a March 1 press release. The Loyal Wingman is an uncrewed aircraft developed by Boeing Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) that will use artificial intelligence (AI) as the foundation for the Airpower Teaming System (ATS). 

“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,” Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, RAAF Head of Air Force Capability, said in a press statement. “The Loyal Wingman project is a pathfinder for the integration of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence to create smart human-machine teams.” 

The Loyal Wingman completed a low-speed taxi in Oct. 2020 and is one of three prototypes for the ATS which could be used for tactical warning missions. The unmanned aircraft will fly independently or in support of manned aircraft using a sensor package to support intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, according to Boeing’s website. 

Boeing Australia completed the low-speed taxi test on its first Loyal Wingman unmanned aircraft as part of ground testing in Oct. 2020. (Boeing)

“The heart of this program is autonomous systems being part of a manned-unmanned team approach,” Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, chief of RAAF, said in a March 1 video released by Boeing. “So it’s how we work with other aircraft, be that a Super Hornet, an F-35, or a Wedgetail.”

During the test flight, the Loyal Wingman autonomously took off and completed a pre-determined route which involved varying speeds and altitudes, according to the release. 

Other Loyal Wingman prototypes will also complete test flights later this year, according to Boeing. 

The Loyal Wingman is the first military aircraft in over 50 years to be designed and manufactured in Australia. 

“It’s a milestone for Australia, for the Boeing Company, and for the Royal Australian Air Force,” Brendan Nelson, president of Boeing Australia, New Zealand, and South Pacific, said in Boeing’s March 1 video. “We have conceived, designed, built, and now flown the first military aircraft in half a century.” 

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