The Australian division of the American aircraft manufacturer Boeing has powered up the commercial turbofan engine on the first Loyal Wingman aircraft in September. This work is a part of ground testing and preparations for the first flight later this year.
This milestone comes shortly after Boeing completed the first unmanned Loyal Wingman aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force in May.
The Loyal Wingman aircraft is being developed under Australia’s Advanced Development Program. The project aims to develop jet-powered, unmanned, artificial intelligence-powered teaming aircraft that can fly alongside UAVs and manned combat aircraft.
The now-completed prototype is the first of three prototype Loyal Wingman aircraft that will serve as the foundation for the global Boeing Airpower Teaming Systems (ATS), an artificial intelligence-powered aircraft developed for the global defense market as well as primary customer, the Royal Australian Air Force.
The Loyal Wingman is 11 meters long and has a wingspan of 11.7 meters. It will be capable of flying up to 2,000 nautical miles (3,700km), carrying additional weapons or detection and surveillance systems. The intelligent ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) and ELSO sensor systems covering this unmanned aircraft are customizable according to the manufacturer for country-specific needs.
“This engine run gets us closer toward flying the first aircraft later this year and was successful thanks to the collaboration and dedication of our team,” said Dr. Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System. “We’ve been able to select a very light, off-the-shelf jet engine for the unmanned system as a result of the advanced manufacturing technologies applied to the aircraft.“
In early April 2020, Boeing specialists made the first activation of the Loyal Wingman onboard systems as part of the assembled fuselage.