Australia Designs and Builds Military Aircraft for First Time in 50 Years

May 5, 2020 Updated: May 6, 2020

Boeing has unveiled the first military aircraft to be designed and built in Australia in more than 50 years—a historic milestone for Australia and the company.

The Australian government invested of up to $40 million (US$26 million) into the Loyal Wingman, an unmanned aircraft, in its commitment to growing and developing its local defence capacity.

It is Boeing’s largest investment in an unmanned aircraft program outside of the United States. The Loyal Wingman uses artificial intelligence to extend the capabilities of manned and unmanned platforms.

The partnership between the Royal Australian Air Force and Boeing Australia is responsible for developing and testing this aircraft.

Introduced in February 2019, the Loyal Wingman is about the length of a telegraph pole at 11.7 meters (38 feet) long. It will have a range of more than 3,700 kilometers and “project power forward while keeping manned capabilities out of harm’s way.”

Boeing Australia loyal wingman main body fuselage
The main body of the Loyal Wingman aircraft on Feb. 10. (Supplied by Boeing)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the program will boost Australia in three areas—Australia’s defence industry, global export potential, and job creation.

“The Loyal Wingman program has helped support around 100 high tech jobs in Australia. Such projects will be critical to bolster growth and support jobs as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Morrison said on May 5.

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said that this is a significant milestone for our country, especially for local industries. Writing on Twitter on May 4, she said, “It’s the first time [Australia’s] industry are locally designing, developing and manufacturing an aircraft of this type.”

Earlier in February, the Boeing Australia team of local businesses—BAE Systems Australia, RUAG Australia, Ferra Engineering, and AME Systems—finished building the main body of the aircraft, including hardware kits, precision machine components, and wiring to support the aircraft.

The team presented the Loyal Wingman prototype on May 5 and have scheduled to start ground trials later this year.