Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has welcomed an announcement that Queensland will become the final production home for Australia’s leading-edge unmanned defence aircraft – making it the first military aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said a visionary new partnership with Boeing Australia means more high-skilled jobs, local supply opportunities and defence industry stimulus as Queensland continues to recover and grow from the COVID downturn.
"The creation of additional new aerospace capability could see unmanned defence aircraft produced here by the middle of the decade, with prototype testing and certification taking place before that. We are carrying out our plan to recover and grow, including into new industries, and it’s very important that we do that not just as a government but with key partnerships," Premier Palaszczuk explained.
The aircraft, which uses artificial intelligence to extend the capabilities of manned and unmanned platforms, is the first to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years. It is Boeing’s largest investment in an unmanned aircraft outside of the US.
"Our investment in this advanced manufacturing project will provide critical skills for suppliers, academia and Boeing, and culminate in Queensland becoming the primary final assembly facility for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, conditional on orders. Supporting this project is a significant investment in the Queensland defence and manufacturing industries and will strengthen ties between Australia and the global defence market," Premier Palaszczuk added.
The first aircraft prototype, called the Loyal Wingman, was unveiled with the Royal Australian Air Force in May this year.
Treasurer Cameron Dick said the Boeing partnership demonstrated the Palaszczuk government’s commitment to advanced manufacturing.
"Manufacturing is a vital part of the Queensland economy, which is why supporting manufacturing is one of the centrepieces of our Unite and Recover Economic Recovery Plan. Our government’s longstanding commitment to advanced manufacturing is one of the reasons Queensland is already home to Boeing’s largest workforce outside the United States," Treasurer Dick explained.
Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific president Brendan Nelson said the partnership with the Queensland government to develop an advanced manufacturing capability was a significant milestone for the company.
"It’s one that will build cutting-edge skills to stimulate the innovation ecosystem in Queensland. This includes introducing technologies such as advanced robotics; investment in universities, small-to-medium enterprises and start-up companies; as well as creating global export opportunities for Australia’s supply chain," Nelson said.
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"This investment could unlock global defence and aerospace opportunities for Queensland to gain future work share in other Boeing programs."
More than 35 members of Australian industry are supporting prototype work across four Australian states. With a global market demand for highly capable but extremely affordable unmanned aircraft, Boeing applied company-wide innovation to achieve those goals.
The Loyal Wingman will have a range of more than 3,700 kilometres, enabling Defence to better understand how these types of aircraft can be used as a force-multiplier, helping to project power forward while keeping manned capabilities out of harm’s way.
The aircraft was engineered using a digital twin to model its structures, systems, capabilities and full life cycle requirements; manufactured with Boeing’s largest-ever resin-infused single composite piece; and assembled using proven advanced manufacturing processes.