Boeing Australia powered up the commercial turbofan engine on the first Loyal Wingman aircraft in September, as part of ground testing and preparations for the first flight.
This milestone comes on the heels of Boeing completing the first unmanned Loyal Wingman aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force earlier this year, a major step forward for the unmanned vehicle serving as the foundation for the global Boeing Airpower Teaming System, an artificial intelligence-powered teaming aircraft developed for the global defence market.
“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.”
Australia, September 15, 2020
Loyal Wingman announcement shows manned-unmanned teaming an emerging niche, says GlobalData
Following Boeing Australia’s announcement that the commercial turbofan engine on the first Loyal Wingman aircraft has been powered up for ground testing and preparations for a first flight, Anthony Endresen, Aerospace and Defence Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:
“Boeing Australia’s announcement heralds the start of testing of what is expected to be a major player in a niche that is expected to take-off in the coming years. It follows hot on the heels of the unveiling of the “Grom” UCAV in Russia at the Army Forum 2020 exposition.
“The Loyal Wingman entering the testing phase is significant in that it demonstrates continued progress in the program, which is expected to be an important example of Australian defence export in an advanced area. In terms of timing, it coincides with the release of the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) review of the Australian plan to become a global top 10 defence exporter, with the latter report published September 10.
“In terms of the defence industry, it is significant in that it is progress towards the fielding of a western manned-unmanned teamed platform, an area in which China and Russia have both demonstrated progress as both of these states have performed test flights of their respective platforms. However, Russia is further ahead, having performed numerous tests as well as teaming flights of the S-70 with the Su-57. At the Army Forum 2020 expo, JSC Kronshtadt presented a new signature-managed UCAV, the “Grom” (Thunder), specifically to team and perform the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses roles. This demonstrated a more advanced portfolio of options in this niche.
“The timing of the announcement is interesting in that it roughly coincides with the publication of the ANAO report, which specifically audits Australian efforts to become a global top 10 defence exporter and the lack of specifics and data in the plans. Boeing Australia’s Loyal Wingman is an example of the Australian Government seeking to increase exports where the programs are developed and led from Australia and is a flagship example at that. The update in the announcement servers to present the progress of the program at the same time as most defence market news surrounds COVID-19 related austerity or delays. A more austere future is one of the sales pitches for the concept, with the unmanned component being cheaper and more cost-effective than manned alternatives.”