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The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Boeing Australia have presented the first locally built unmanned Loyal Wingman aircraft.

The Australian Government has invested up to $40m in The Boeing Loyal Wingman-Advanced Development Programme. It is also Boeing’s largest investment in a new unmanned aircraft programme outside the US.

The new military aircraft is designed to safeguard and support the country’s existing manned aircraft such as F-35 joint strike fighters, Super Hornets and Growlers and their pilots.

Ground trials of the first aircraft are scheduled to commence soon.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “We’re investing to enhance the agility and capability of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) so we can protect our nation and our allies. It means Australia can sharpen its edge and prepare for the future.

“Our investment also highlights our government’s commitment to growing and developing our local defence industry, creating jobs and boosting our global export potential.

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“The Loyal Wingman programme has helped support around 100 high tech jobs in Australia. Such projects will be critical to bolster growth and support jobs as the economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The Loyal Wingman features a range of more than 3,700km.

Australian Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said: “This is a truly historic moment for our country. It’s the first time that Australian industry are locally designing, developing and manufacturing an aircraft of this type.

“This demonstrates the importance of the relationship that defence has with companies like Boeing, and defence industry more broadly, and provides a fantastic example of the innovation we can achieve together.”