The Loyal Wingman took to the skies in a successful first flight test on February 27 at Woomera Range Complex, South Australia, marking a major step in this significant innovation project for Defence, the Royal Australian Air Force and Boeing Defence Australia.

Head of Air Force Capability Air Vice Marshal Catherine Roberts acknowledged the magnitude of the achievement and congratulated the team on their success.

“As the first military combat aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years this is a great leap forward for Australian capability,” Air Vice Marshal Roberts said. 

“A year ago this was a concept—now it’s a reality—it is amazing to imagine and then create a new uncrewed aerial capability with our partner Boeing Australia, designed and made right here in Australia.” 

The Loyal Wingman project is a pathfinder for the integration of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence to create smart human-machine teams.

The aim is to provide capability advantage, working alongside existing platforms to complement and extend air combat platforms and other systems.

The Loyal Wingman will have a range of more than 3,700km and has been designed to fly, as a partner, with crewed Air Force platforms. 

It enables Defence to investigate factors, such as the level of automation and autonomy, use of artificial intelligence and human-machine teaming concepts that will ensure Australia’s legal and ethical obligations are met.

“This knowledge will help Defence make more informed decisions about acquiring uncrewed capabilities and systems, including how they can complement our future force structure,” Air Vice Marshal Roberts said. 

“For us to maintain our advantage in a very fast moving space we need to bring in the minds of industry earlier and work together in a much more agile way.

“The Loyal Wingman demonstrates the effectiveness of a constant capability development cycle, starting early, iterating often and sharing our learnings on the way.”