Boeing Defense Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) have announced the first flight of the Loyal Wingman Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). Maturing the technology and its eventual induction into service will help Australia’s defense industry build the skills to develop the future systems in its aerospace domain, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
The first flight of Boeing’s Loyal Wingman UAV paves the way for other milestones to be achieved before the system is accepted into service for the RAAF. The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) had also announced the delivery of three more F-35s to RAAF Base Williamtown bringing the total deliveries to 33 of 72 aircraft
Mathew George, Ph.D. Aerospace, Defense and Security Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The loyal wingman is expected to play a crucial role in the RAAF by not only expanding on the capabilities of the F-35 but also helping to protect the aircraft. With three more aircraft being delivered, the first after initial operational capability was achieved, , there’s still significant work required to be done before these systems and their inter-play reach maturity.”
The Government of Australia has also opted to support this development with an agreement to co-develop three more Loyal Wingman UAVs with a further US$115m. This is inline with GlobalData’s estimates of a growing Loyal Wingman program in Australia.
George adds: “Considering the expensiveness of each F-35 and how this UAV is supposed to help the F-35 crews with their jobs, keep them safe, and even take a hit to protect the pilots if the need arises, one can expect a whole lot more of these ingenious UAVs to be flying missions along with the F-35s. And with an expected strength of 72 F-35s, it is sure that Australia requires more than just 6 UAVs. This suggests a manufacturing process, the associated supply chains and the eventual support to ensure that these UAVs and their F-35s are in top condition.”
Ultimately, there will be a need to upgrade payloads for these UAVs, make them lighter, stronger, more lethal, or even completely new UAV, and that’s going to mean Research and Development (R&D) and other jobs, training and investment.
George concludes: “However, the Australian government hasn’t shied away from these goals so far and given the broad changes and support these programs have, it looks like the Loyal Wingman just might be the industry’s wingman to develop the defense industry further in Australia .