The “Loyal Wingman” is a concept being developed by various Air Forces as a supplementary unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) which shall participate in missions along with other manned and unmanned aircraft. These aircraft are required to be cheap and expendable so that they can be used as decoy to protect manned combat aircraft from enemy anti-air systems.
The Royal Australian Air Force is developing a loyal wingman under the Loyal Wingman – Advanced Development Program along with Boeing Australia. The Australian government has provided a funding of A$10 million per year for the project. There are three prototypes to be built under the programme with the first flight planned for 2020.
Boeing has announced that the Boeing Australia team has successfully built the first fuselage of the project. The Australian team has applied digital engineering and advanced composite materials to achieve cost and agility goals for the project. The Loyal Wingman is 11.7 meter aircraft which is designed to use artificial intelligence in teaming with other manned and unmanned platforms. Several Australian companies have participated actively in the project and delivered some of the critical components like: –
- BAE Systems Australia, who have delivered hardware kits including flight control computers and navigation equipment;
- RUAG Australia, who have delivered the landing gear system
- Ferra Engineering, who have delivered precision machine components and sub-assemblies to support the program; and
- AME Systems, who have delivered wiring looms to support the vehicle.
Now that the fuselage is ready, the next major milestone will be weight on wheels, when the fuselage structure moves from the assembly jig to the aircraft’s own landing gear to continue systems installation and functional testing.