Pilotless Loyal Wingman fighter jet completes its maiden flight over the Outback – the first military aircraft made in Australia in 50 years
- The first test flight for a pilotless jet has been completed in South Australia
- The first military aircraft designed and built in Australia for more than 50 years
- The Loyal Wingman flew at different speeds and altitudes during the test flight
- $40million has been invested into the development of the aircraft in Australia
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The Royal Australian Airforce and Boeing have completed the first test flight of their new pilotless fighter-like jet.
Footage from a ground control station in South Australia shows the unmanned aircraft, named Loyal Wingman, flying under the supervision of a Boeing pilot.
During the test flight the jet took off under its own power before flying at different speeds and altitudes to verify its functionality and performance.
The Loyal Wingman is the first military aircraft to be designed and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years.
The Loyal Wingman (pictured) is the first military aircraft to be designed and manufactured in Australia for more than 50 years
RAAF Air Vice-Marshal and Head of Air Force Capability Cath Roberts said the maiden flight was a major step in a long-term project.
‘The Loyal Wingman project is a pathfinder for the integration of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence to create smart human-machine teams,’ she said.
‘Through this project we are learning how to integrate these new capabilities to complement and extend air combat and other missions.
‘Our aim with Boeing is to understand how we can get these aircraft to team with our existing aircraft to be a force multiplier in the future.’
The uncrewed jet is 11.6metres long, has a 3,704km range and a nose that can be removed to fit various payloads, including weapons.
The Loyal Wingman is designed to operate in conjunction with crewed aircraft and can act as a shield to help protect more expensive manned fighter jets.
The pilotless plane (pictured) was tested at a number of different altitudes and speeds during the flight
Boeing has previously said up to 16 of the jets could be teamed with a crewed aircraft for missions.
The Australian government has invested $40million into the plane’s development, which Boeing last year said had also attracted interest from the United States and United Kingdom as potential future customers.
Defence contractors are investing increasingly in autonomous technology as militaries around the world look for cheaper and safer ways to maximise their resources.
The first Loyal Wingman is being used as a foundation for Boeing’s Airpower Teaming System, a service being developed for various global defence customers.
Boeing said additional Loyal Wingman aircraft are currently under development, with teaming flights scheduled for later this year.
Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, is home to Boeing’s largest footprint outside the United States and has vast airspace with relatively low traffic for flight testing.
The pilotless plane (pictured) has received increasing interest from militaries around the world