Loyal Wingman combat drone takes shape
Boeing's Loyal Wingman combat UAV has passed an important milestone with major structural assembly of the fuselage on the first prototype now complete. Being developed in partnership with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), the 38-ft (11.7-m) jet-powered autonomous drone is designed to operate alongside other UAVs and manned combat aircraft.
The Loyal Wingman is being developed for the global market by a coalition of 16 Australian industries using digital engineering and advanced composite materials, and its sensors can be modified for the customer's requirements. The first of three prototypes will be used to assess and improve the production of the final version.
With a profile more like a conventional fighter plane – but without a cockpit – the Loyal Wingman is designed to achieve "fighter-like performance" and a range of 2,000 nm (2,301 mi, 3,704 km). No armament has been announced, but it will carry electronic warfare systems and sensor packages for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.
Boeing says the next step will be to move the fuselage from its assembly jig and place its weight on its own undercarriage so that assembly can continue in the run up to the first flight, which is scheduled for later this year.
"This is an exciting milestone for the development program, and the Australian aerospace industry, as we progress with production of the first military aircraft to be developed in Australia in more than 50 years," says Dr Shane Arnott, program director, Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS).