Boeing Australia has concluded the major fuselage structural assembly for the prototype of the first Loyal Wingman aircraft.

The aircraft one of three prototypes that are being developed and tested in the country.

It is developing the new aircraft prototype as part of the Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program. It is working in collaboration with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

For the 11.7m-long unmanned aircraft, the Boeing Australia team has applied digital engineering and used advanced composite materials to achieve cost and agility goals.

The project forms the basis of Boeing’s Airpower Teaming System (ATS). It will use the prototypes with artificial intelligence (AI) in manned-unmanned teaming tests.

Boeing ATS programme director Dr Shane Arnott said: “This is an exciting milestone for the development programme, and the Australian aerospace industry, as we progress with production of the first military aircraft to be developed in Australia in more than 50 years.”

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Arnott added that Australian industry participation was critical to the programme’s development.

RAAF Air Combat Capability director-general Darren Goldie said: “The partnership with Boeing is key to building our understanding of not just the operational implications for these sorts of vehicles, but also making us a smart customer as we consider options for manned-unmanned teaming in the coming decade.

“Boeing is progressing very well with its development and we look forward to seeing the final product in the coming months.”

BAE Systems Australia delivered hardware kits. This included flight control computers and navigation equipment for the programme.

Other companies involved include RUAG Australia, which delivered the landing gear system. Ferra Engineering supplied precision machine components and sub-assemblies to support the programme. AME Systems delivered wiring looms to support the vehicle.

Boeing Australia will move the fuselage structure from the assembly jig to the aircraft’s landing gear. It will then continue systems installation and functional testing.

It expects Loyal Wingman to complete its first flight this year.

In September, Boeing partnered with Australia’s Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre (DCRC). They will collaborate to develop advanced AI technologies for unmanned systems in military operations.