Boeing sees mass production of its unmanned, fighter-like jet developed in Australia likely happening by the middle of the decade, an executive said on Tuesday, as it rolled out the first of three prototypes.
“We are expecting middle of the decade, maybe a bit earlier that this will be in production,” Shane Arnott, the programme director of Boeing’s Airpower Teaming System, told reporters.
He said up to 16 of the Loyal Wingman drones could be teamed with a manned aircraft for missions.
Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Air Vice-Marshal Catherine Roberts said the Loyal Wingman’s role could include carrying weapons in combat.
The Australian government has invested A$40 million ($25.71 million) in development of the product, which Roberts said had also attracted interest from the United States and United Kingdom as potential future customers.
The aircraft, which uses artificial intelligence to extend the capabilities of manned and unmanned platforms, is the first to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years. It is Boeing’s largest investment in an unmanned aircraft outside of the United States.
As the first of three prototypes for Australia’s Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program, the aircraft also serves as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS) being developed for the global defense market.
The Loyal Wingman prototype now moves into ground testing, followed by taxi and first flight later this year.