The US is discussing with Australia the purchase of the Australian-made Boeing MQ-28 combat drone, also known as the Boeing Loyal Wingman.
The drone could become part of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, the US Air Force initiative to introduce a sixth-generation fighter jet.
The information was revealed by USAF secretary Frank Kendall, Breaking Defense reports.
“I’m talking to my Australian counterparts in general about the NGAD family of systems and how they might be able to participate,” Kendall told Breaking Defense. “I think there’s a lot of mutual interest in working together. And we’re gonna be sorting out the details over the next few weeks.”
Kendall added Boeing could build an MQ-28 ‘derivative’, as well as accelerate the development program.
Boeing’s drone is already part of the Skyborg program, where it is one of three participants, together with the Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie and General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger.
While separate from the NGAD, the Skyborg program aims to develop a relatively cheap high-performance drone that could operate in combat environment alongside manned fighter jets.
Integration with such loyal wingman drones is often cited as one of the key characteristics of the sixth generation of fighter jets.
The MQ-28A Ghost Bat, previously known as Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS), is being developed by Boeing Australia and is touted as the country’s first domestic combat aircraft in over 50 years.
First revealed in 2020, it conducted its maiden flight in March 2021 and is currently undergoing testing, with Boeing Australia planning to start its mass production in the near future.