Loyal Wingman First Flight

By Australian Department of Defence

The Loyal Wingman took to the skies today in a successful first flight test – a major step in a significant innovation project for Defence, the Royal Australian Air Force and Boeing Defence Australia.

The project is a pathfinder for the integration of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence to create smart human-machine teams. The Loyal Wingman will provide a capability advantage by working alongside existing platforms to complement and extend air combat platforms and other systems.

Head of Air Force Capability, Air Vice-Marshal Catherine Roberts AM, CSC 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.

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

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

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

Air Vice-Marshal Roberts said the Loyal Wingman project 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.

“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,” Air Vice-Marshal Roberts said.

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