Boeing has taken the wraps off its latest combat drone, presenting a model of its Loyal Wingman UAV at the Australian International Airshow. Formally referred to as Boeing Airpower Teaming System, the concept demonstrator aircraft is being developed in partnership between the Australian government and Boeing Australia.
Combat drones have been evolving with remarkable speed. They began as short-range recon aircraft, but now we're seeing concepts like the Loyal Wingman, which is designed to work with conventional aircraft by complementing and extending their capabilities.
The new concept aircraft even looks different from many UAVs, with a profile more like a conventional fighter plane without a cockpit. When the actual prototype flies in 2020, the 38 ft (11.7 m) long airframe will have "fighter-like performance" with a range of 2,000 nm (2,301 mi, 3,704 km). There's no mention of armament, but it will carry electronic warfare systems and sensor packages for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. In addition, it will have artificial intelligence that will allow it to operate autonomously and safely with manned aircraft.
"The Boeing Airpower Teaming System will provide a disruptive advantage for allied forces' manned/unmanned missions," says Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Boeing Autonomous Systems. "With its ability to reconfigure quickly and perform different types of missions in tandem with other aircraft, our newest addition to Boeing's portfolio will truly be a force multiplier as it protects and projects air power."
The Loyal Wingman is Boeing's largest unmanned aircraft program based outside of the United States, and is aimed at an international market.
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