Boeing and the Australian government are to develop the Airpower Teaming System, an unmanned aircraft that will provide ‘fighter-like performance’ in support of manned military aircraft.
Australia’s Ministry of Defence will invest up to AUS$40m in developing the aircraft, which is scheduled to take its first flight in 2020.
The prototype, dubbed Loyal Wingman – Advanced Development Program, will feed into the production of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, a platform that represents the company’s largest investment in a new unmanned aircraft program outside the US. A model of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System was unveiled at the Australian International Airshow by Christopher Pyne, Australia’s minister for defence.
“The Boeing Airpower Teaming System will provide a disruptive advantage for allied forces’ manned/unmanned missions,” said 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.”
Measuring 11.7m in length and able to fly over 2,000 nautical miles, Boeing Airpower Teaming System’s suite of sensors will enable it to support intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions and electronic warfare.
Boeing added that artificial intelligence will support independent flight, or support of manned aircraft, while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft.
Steven Ciobo, Australia’s minister for defence industry, said that Boeing will look to work with large, medium and small Australian businesses and partner with research organisations, including universities and the Defence Science and Technology Group.
“The development and demonstration of this air vehicle will create around 100 new high-technology jobs in aerospace engineering and design in Australia, as well as wider job opportunities across the supply chain,” Ciobo said.
“This aircraft is a historic endeavour for Boeing. Not only is it developed outside the United States, it is also designed so that our global customers can integrate local content to meet their country-specific requirements,” said Marc Allen, president, Boeing International. “The Boeing Airpower Teaming System provides a transformational capability in terms of defence, and our customers – led by Australia – effectively become partners on the program with the ability to grow their own sovereign capabilities to support it, including a high-tech workforce.”