The Royal Australian Air Force and Boeing Defence Australia have successfully completed the first high-speed taxi test of the Loyal Wingman in preparation for first flight of the next-generation platform.
Boeing test personnel monitored the aircraft’s performance and instrumentation from a ground control station to verify the functionality while the vehicle reached accelerated speeds, the uncrewed aircraft has been undergoing low-, medium-, and high-speed taxi testing at a remote test location in Australia.
Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force will resume final taxi tests and preparations for flight in early 2021 when the range reopens.
Paul Ryder, Boeing Flight Test manager explained, "Our test program is progressing well, and we are happy with the ground test data we have collected to date. We are working with the Air Warfare Centre to complete final test verifications to prepare for flight testing in the new year."
RAAF Head of Air Force Capability Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts said seeing the aircraft in person during the December trials had been extraordinary, adding, "There is something very special about testing an aircraft that takes technology to the next level. It is iconic in its own way."
"Experiencing the enthusiasm of the Boeing and Air Force team reminded me of my early career testing aircraft. This is what innovation is all about – working together to achieve many firsts," AVM Roberts said.
More than 35 Australian suppliers on the Australian industry team have contributed to the aircraft development, including investment partner BAE Systems Australia, which has been embedded with the Boeing test team on-site.
Dr Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System said, "In the past year alone, we have made amazing strides on this aircraft, taking it from a fuselage to a finished aircraft that has undergone rigorous testing. Our focus now is on conducting a safe and secure flight-test regimen for the Loyal Wingman program."
The Loyal Wingman has been designed to fly alongside other platforms, using artificial intelligence for teaming missions. The uncrewed aerial system has advanced design and flight characteristics, including a customisable modular nose section, and a conventional take-off and landing approach.
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.