Boeing completed the fuselage assembly of the first prototype of its upcoming stealth combat drone, Loyal Wingman, and mounted it on the chassis. The power system of the UAV was also successfully integrated.

With the fuselage now assembled, on wheels and powered, the development and testing of additional systems will commence. It is the first of three prototypes that would be developed as part of the program.

“We’re continuing at pace toward our goal of flying later this year, so that we can show our customer and the world what unmanned capability like this can do,” said Dr. Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System. “The strong contributions from our industry team are powering our progress.”

The Loyal Wingman – Advanced Development Program is developed by Boeing Australia for the Royal Australian Air Force, and was unveiled at the Australian International Airshow on February 27, 2019.

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The 11.7-meter (38-foot) long unmanned aerial vehicle should be capable of providing fighter-like performance. Its range should be over 3,700 kilometers (2,000 nautical miles). Its possible armament has yet to be unveiled, but its missions should cover intelligence support, surveillance, and reconnaissance as well as electronic warfare.

Thanks to artificial intelligence, it should be able to fly both autonomously or in support of other manned or unmanned aircraft. It could thus be integrated into a “system of systems”, one of the most sought after features of the upcoming generation of fighter jets.

Its first flight is expected for 2020.

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On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, a similar concept is being developed for the United States Air Force by the company Kratos Defense & Security Solutions: the XQ-58A Valkyrie. It commenced its flight test campaign in March 2019. After a brief interruption following a hard landing that damaged the prototype, it resumed with a fourth test flight in January 2020. “The fifth flight, scheduled for later this year, will be a capability demonstration showcasing the ability of the vehicle to support operational needs,” said the USAF.