The first prototype of the Loyal Wingman is taking on increasingly solid shapes at Boeing Australia. The aircraft is one of the three prototypes that are being built as part of the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) Loyal Wingman – Advanced Development Program.
U.S. aerospace giant reported that the combat drone has recently achieved two more development milestones by taking its weight on its wheels for the first time and having aircraft power switched on.
The Loyal Wingman is designed to use artificial intelligence (AI) to operate alongside other UAVs and manned combat aircrafts. The 38-foot (11.7-meter) long aircraft looks like a small stealth plane with double vertical tail surfaces that look a bit like the tail of an F-22 Raptor. Due to the shape of the air intakes, the Loyal Wingman will likely be able to fly faster than the sound.
This seemingly cockpit-less fighter jet can fly up to 2000 nautical miles (3704 km). Its BAE Systems delivered hardware kits, including flight control computers and navigation equipment, including electronic warfare systems and sensor packages for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.
The first prototype is being developed under an Advanced Development Program and is due to fly in 2020. The recent development milestones for the unmanned aircraft come just weeks after completion of the first fuselage, allowing for rapid progress on systems installation and functional and integration testing from the aircraft’s own landing gear.
“We’re continuing at pace toward our goal of flying later this year, so that we can show our customer and the world what unmanned capability like this can do,” said Dr. Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System. “The strong contributions from our industry team are powering our progress.”