Boeing's Loyal Wingman continues taxi tests, first flight planned for early 2021

Boeing revealed on December 21 that its Airpower Teaming System (ATS) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has successfully completed its first high-speed taxi test in preparation for the platform’s first flight in early 2021.

Since October 2020, Boeing Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) have conducted low-, medium-, and high-speed taxi tests with the ATS at a remote location in Australia. During this ground test campaign, Boeing personnel have monitored the platform’s performance and instrumentation from a nearby ground control station to verify its functionality at accelerated speeds. Boeing and the RAAF will now complete the ATS’ final taxi tests in preparation for the UAS’ first flight, which is scheduled to take place in early 2021.

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In the closing months of 2020, Boeing's Airpower Teaming System has undergone a ground test campaign that involved a number of taxi trials. The platform is scheduled to grace the skies for the first time in early 2021. Boeing

Paul Ryder, Boeing Flight Test manager, said: “Our test programme is progressing well, and we are happy with the ground test data we have collected to date. We are working with the Air Warfare Centre to complete final test verifications to prepare for flight testing in the new year.”

Boeing has designed the ATS to be a low-cost, attritable UAS, which will act as a force-multiplier to manned combat aircraft in a ‘Loyal Wingman’ role. The platform is 38ft 4in in length, boasts a projected operational range of 2,300 miles and will be integrated with artificial intelligence, enabling it to fly independently and autonomously in support of manned aircraft.

Additionally, the ATS will feature a number of sensor packages, allowing it to undertake intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), tactical early warning and aerial scouting missions. The platform will also be used to absorb enemy fire in protection of manned aircraft, if attacked.

Dr Shane Arnott, programme director of Boeing’s ATS, added: “In the past year alone, we have made amazing strides on this aircraft, taking it from a fuselage to a finished aircraft that has undergone rigorous testing. Our focus now is on conducting a safe and secure flight-test regimen for the Loyal Wingman platform.”