Australian Government, RAAF unveil official designator and name for the Airpower Teaming System
Boeing Australia congratulates the Australian Government and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on their selection of ‘MQ-28A Ghost Bat’ as the military designator and name for the first Australian-produced military combat aircraft in over 50 years.
Australia’s Defence Minister, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, announced the designator and name at a dedicated ceremony held at RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland.
“The introduction of the new popular name is a rare and special moment in aviation history for our RAAF partners and industry team of over 35 Australian suppliers,” said Glen Ferguson, director Airpower Teaming System Australia and International.
“Selecting the Ghost Bat, an Australian native mammal known for teaming together in a pack to detect and hunt, reflects the unique characteristics of the aircraft’s sensors and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance abilities, and is a fitting name for this pioneering capability,” said Ferguson.
With a rapid development timetable of just three years from ideation to first flight, the development program leverages advancements in digital engineering, advanced manufacturing and unique Australian supply chain technologies. While the RAAF Loyal Wingman development program name will phase out, Boeing’s product name for global customers will remain the Airpower Teaming System.
“Our enduring partnership with Commonwealth of Australia and Australian Defence Force (ADF) is fundamental to the successful development of MQ-28A’s complex technologies and capabilities, and has global export potential for Australia,” said Dr Brendan Nelson AO, president Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific.
During 2022, the program will continue to accelerate the development and testing of the MQ-28A Ghost Bat, with a focus on sensor and missionisation capabilities to deliver on RAAF commitments. These requirements will continue to expand as Boeing moves towards the aim of delivering an operational capability for the ADF.
May, 2020 – Boeing Rolls Out First Loyal Wingman Unmanned Aircraft
Prototype will advance Boeing’s global Airpower Teaming System
A Boeing Australian industry team has presented the first unmanned Loyal Wingman aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force, a historic milestone for the company and the Commonwealth.
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 United States.
As the first of three prototypes for Australia’s Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program, the aircraft also serves as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS) being developed for the global defense market.
“This is a truly historic moment for our country and for Australian defence innovation,” said the Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister of Australia. “The Loyal Wingman will be pivotal to exploring the critical capabilities our Air Force needs to protect our nation and its allies into the future.”
Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, said the rollout of the first aircraft was a significant milestone in the Boeing Loyal Wingman project.
“This project is an excellent example of innovation through collaboration and what can be achieved working together with defence industry,” said Air Marshal Hupfeld. “This demonstrates the importance of the relationship Air Force has with Boeing Australia and defence industry more broadly. I look forward to exploring the capabilities this aircraft may bring to our existing fleet in the future.”
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 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.
“We are proud to take this significant step forward with the Royal Australian Air Force and show the potential for smart unmanned teaming to serve as a force multiplier,” said Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Autonomous Systems for Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “We look forward to getting the aircraft into flight testing and proving out the unmanned teaming concept. We see global allies with those same mission needs, which is why this program is so important to advancing the development of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.”
The Loyal Wingman prototype now moves into ground testing, followed by taxi and first flight later this year(2020).
November, 2021 – Boeing Uncrewed Teaming Aircraft Advances Flight Testing
Boeing Australia has expanded its flight-test program of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, with two aircraft successfully completing separate flight missions at the Woomera Range Complex recently.
The first Loyal Wingman aircraft developed with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) demonstrated a range of key characteristics during the test flights to continue to expand the flight envelope. A second aircraft also successfully completed its first flight mission.
“It is so exciting seeing two aircraft in the air as the Loyal Wingman continues to excel in the flight-test program,” said Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, RAAF Head of Air Force Capability. “This opens up significant capability agility for Air Force, particularly with features such as the reconfigurable nose.”
“We’re heavily engaged in the payload development and the element of surprise that it gives us in the battlespace. You never really know what’s in the nose,” said AVM Roberts. Throughout the flight-test missions, the teams gathered aircraft performance data that will be used to inform and refine the digital twin of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, with the view to accelerate the aircraft’s development where possible.
The digital twin models the system’s entire lifecycle, from design and development to production and sustainment, and contributes to speed and first-time quality.
“We’re in a steady rhythm of flight testing on the way to mission and operational testing, enabling Boeing Australia, RAAF and our Australian industry team of more than 35 companies to progressively advance the flight characteristics and capabilities of the uncrewed teaming system,” said Glen Ferguson, director of Boeing Airpower Teaming System – Australia and International.
“I’d like to extend my thanks to our capability partner BAE Systems Australia, and to RUAG Australia for their specific roles in this latest test block.” The flight tests of aircraft one included the first time the landing gear was raised and engaged. RUAG Australia supplied the landing gear systems to the aircraft, and BAE Systems Australia was integral in the design, supply and support of the flight control and navigation systems tested as part of the flights.
“This is a great achievement for homegrown, Australian autonomous capabilities,” said BAE Systems Australia CEO Gabby Costigan. “Our partnership underpins a shared commitment to develop sovereign technologies and deliver a cutting-edge program for the nation’s defence.”
The first batch of Loyal Wingman aircraft are serving as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System being developed for various global defence customers. The aircraft will fly alongside other platforms, using artificial intelligence to team with existing crewed and uncrewed assets to complement mission capabilities.