Boeing Australia recently completed the major structural assembly of its first Airpower Teaming System (ATS) prototype fuselage – marking a major milestone in producing a Loyal Wingman platform.
The aircraft will be the first of three prototypes that will be developed as part of the Loyal Wingman – Advanced Development Program, in which Boeing has partnered with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
Dr Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing ATS, said: “This is an exciting milestone for the development [programme], and the Australian aerospace industry, as we progress with production of the first military aircraft to be developed in Australia for more than 50 years.”
Arnott added that Australian industrial participation was critical to the programme’s rapid development. That team includes BAE Systems Australia, RUAG Australia, Ferra Engineering and AME Systems.
BAE Systems Australia provided hardware kits such as flight control systems and navigation equipment. RUAG Australia delivered the ATS’ landing gear. Ferra Engineering supplied precision machine components and sub-assemblies for the platform and AME Systems provided the wiring looms to support the vehicle.
In producing the 38ft (11.7m) long unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV), Boeing Australia has applied digital engineering and advanced composite materials to achieve cost and agility goals. The ATS is designed to use artificial intelligence (AI) in teaming with both manned and unmanned platforms.
Air Commodore Darren Goldie, RAAF Director-General of Air Combat Capability, said: “The partnership with Boeing is key to building our understanding of not just the operational implications for these sorts of vehicles, but also making us a smart customer as we consider options for manned-unmanned teaming [MUM-T] in the coming decade.”
“Boeing is progressing very well with its development and we look forward to seeing the final product in the coming months,” he added.
Once the first ATS has been delivered, the prototype will provide key lessons for the future production of the platform. Boeing Australia is developing the Loyal Wingman platform for the global defence market, where customers will be able to tailor the low-cost, attritable force-multiplier’s sensors and systems to suit their own needs.
Looking ahead, the next major milestone in development of the ATS will be when the fuselage moves from the assembly jig and onto its own landing gear. From there, system integration and functional testing will continue. The Loyal Wingman platform is expected to make its first flight later this year.
Follow the link to read more about the Loyal Wingman concept and other platforms being developed to perform the role – Loyal Wingman: A Perfect Partnership?