The first prototype of the stealth unmanned aerial vehicle known as the Loyal Wingman, developed by Boeing Defence Australia, was spotted on a runway for the first time.
The Airpower Teaming System (ATS) was seen preparing for taxi trials at an undisclosed location, which could be the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Amberley.
“The first ATS aircraft is currently undergoing ground testing, which will be followed by taxi and first flight later this year,” a Boeing spokesperson told local media Australian Defence which broke the news.
The first of three prototypes of the Australian Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program was presented by Boeing to the Royal Australian Air Force in May 2020.
The 11.7-meter (38-foot) long unmanned aerial vehicle would be capable of providing fighter-like performance. Its range will be over 3,700 kilometers (2,000 nautical miles). While the armament has yet to be unveiled, it is already known that its missions will cover intelligence support, surveillance and reconnaissance as well as electronic warfare.
Thanks to artificial intelligence, it should eventually be able to fly both autonomously or in support of other manned or unmanned aircraft, in swarms of four to six units. It could thus be integrated into a “system of systems”, one of the most sought after features of the upcoming generation of fighter jets.
The exact cost of the Australian Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program is unknown. However, the project is the most expensive investment of Boeing outside of the United States.