Boeing announced on October 22 that its Airpower Teaming System (ATS) has moved under its own power for the first time, marking a key milestone in the platform’s development.
The firm states that the milestone came on October 21, when the first prototype completed a low-speed taxi test during ground trials as the team prepares for the aircraft’s first flight later this year. The platform has been designed as a low-cost, attritable, unmanned aircraft system (UAS), which will act as a force-multiplier to manned combat aircraft in a ‘Loyal Wingman’ role. During the test, the ATS reached a maximum speed of 14kts, demonstrated several activities while manoeuvring and stopped on command.
Paul Ryder, Boeing Australia’s flight test manager, said: “The low-speed taxi enabled us to verify the function and integration of the aircraft systems, including steering, braking and engine controls, with the aircraft in motion.”
The ATS is being developed by Boeing in partnership with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), which has invested up to AU$40m into the programme. In total, three prototypes will be produced for developmental testing, with these systems laying the foundation for the ATS as Boeing looks to market it to a global audience.
Dr Shane Arnott, the ATS programme director at Boeing, added: “Runway independence ensures the aircraft will be a highly flexible and adaptable system for our global customers. This latest test marks the first full unmanned movement of the Loyal Wingman with our Australian partners and takes us a step closer to first flight.”
The platform is 38ft 4in in length, boasts a projected operational range of 2,300 miles and will be integrated with artificial intelligence (AI), enabling it to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft. It will multiply the capabilities of its operator, allowing them to increase their ability to project force in the battlespace.
The ATS will feature a number of sensor packages, enabling it to undertake intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), tactical early warning and aerial scouting missions. It will also be used to absorb enemy fire in protection of manned platforms, if attacked.