In an Australian Liberal Government press release on May 15 Minister for Defence Peter Dutton revealed that seven Boeing MQ-28A Ghost Bat uncrewed autonomous air vehicles will enter Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) service within two years.
This forms part of an additional AUS$454m investment by Australian Government in the Loyal Wingman programme.
Dutton, said: Since 2017 the Coalition Government has invested more than AUS$150m to support the joint venture between the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Boeing Defence Australia to deliver a world-leading air system that will team with existing air combat aircraft and conduct air combat, reconnaissance and surveillance missions. In just four years our partnership with Boeing has successfully designed, manufactured and flown the first Australian-built military combat aircraft in 50 years. This investment today will see the MQ-28A systems expected to enter service with the RAAF in 2024-25.”
The Minister continued: “This investment will more than double the Australian workforce directly associated with the programme, generating a significant number of advanced engineering and high-tech jobs in the aviation and Defence advanced technologies sectors, particularly in Brisbane. In addition to the direct engagement with Boeing Defence Australia, our investment will see the program expand to support engagement of an additional 46 Australian companies, alongside international partners and allies.
“This investment in world-leading technology further advances Australia’s first-mover status in a highly competitive industry and establishes the Loyal Wingman Program as a serious competitor in key export markets. By sharing technology and leveraging the expertise of our US partners, the MQ-28A aircraft will be interoperable with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region ensuring that our combined air combat forces are enhanced and stand ready to defend Australia and its national interests.”
Over 70% of each aircraft is sourced, designed and manufactured in Australia, then brought together at the final assembly/production facility established in Toowoomba, southern Queensland. The MQ-28A prototype (at the time known as the Boeing Airpower Training System/Loyal Wingman) made its maiden flight on February 27, 2021, from Woomera, South Australia. A second prototype subsequently joined the flight test programme, while a third is now being prepared for flight testing later in 2022.