The first Australian military aircraft designed and developed in half a century—the Loyal Wingman—has successfully completed its first flight on the weekend.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the program is a testament to the ingenuity of Australia’s defence industry.
“History has been made,” Morrison said.
Introduced in February 2019, the unmanned Loyal Wingman has a range of more than 3,700 kilometres and keeps crewed capabilities out of harm’s way by projecting power forward via artificial intelligence.
The Acting Minister for Defence, Marise Payne, said the Loyal Wingman program would support Australia’s defence industry and boost Australia’s workforce.
“Through this Government’s investment in the program, we have helped secure over 100 Australian jobs,” Payne said in a statement.
“This includes 33 highly skilled aviation engineering jobs in Victoria that would otherwise have been made redundant in the midst of COVID-19.”
The Morrison Government is investing a further $115 million to support the next stage of development in the Boeing Loyal Wingman program, which will see Australia gain three more aircraft to help with existing platforms.
“This new stage of development will deliver an increase in the advanced mission capabilities of the aircraft,” Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said in a statement.
“Here is another high-flying example of how we are backing our local defence industry base, supporting and creating jobs in a range of high technology areas.”
“We are very excited about the export potential of the Loyal Wingman,” she said.
With support from more than 35 Australian industry groups, including the Royal Australian Air Force, Boeing Australia, and its defence industry partners, the team was able to manufacture the aircraft from design to flight in three years.
“Boeing and Australia are pioneering fully integrated combat operations by crewed and uncrewed aircraft,” Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Leanne Caret said. “We’re honoured to be opening this part of aviation’s future with the Royal Australian Air Force, and we look forward to showing others how they also could benefit from our loyal wingman capabilities.”
Additional Loyal Wingman aircraft are being developed, with plans for more flights scheduled for later this year.