Boeing Australia selected Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport (WTB) in South Australia as the location for the production facility of the Airpower Teaming System (ATS), also known as the Loyal Wingman combat drone.
This facility will be Boeing’s first final assembly site outside of North America.
“This announcement follows our success with Australia’s first commercial drone flight testing facility at Cloncurry Airport last December, of which Boeing was a first user,” said Australian Treasurer and Minister for Investment Cameron Dick
“It’s the result of an arrangement our government entered into with Boeing Australia last year to support the establishment of the primary final assembly facility for the Boeing Loyal Wingman here in Queensland, subject to defence orders. It’s expected the project could generate up to $1 billion dollars for Queensland’s economy over 10 years, with more than just defence industries to benefit.”
Boeing Australia is currently developing six aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), with flight testing ongoing. The Loyal Wingman drone successfully completed its maiden flight in March 2021.
The 11.7-meter (38-foot) long unmanned aerial vehicle will 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.