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Boeing inks $115M deal for 3 more Loyal Wingman drones for Australia

The Australian government and Boeing announced plans Tuesday to develop three more Loyal Wingman drones. Photo courtesy of Boeing
The Australian government and Boeing announced plans Tuesday to develop three more Loyal Wingman drones. Photo courtesy of Boeing

March 2 (UPI) -- The Australian government announced a plan Tuesday to co-develop three more Loyal Wingman unmanned aircraft, which recently completed its first test flight.

The three-year, $115 million-dollar deal will support the maturation of the aircraft design, evolution of current and future payloads and create the sustainment system for the Loyal Wingman.

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The drone is the first military aircraft to be designed and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years.

It's also the first military aircraft Boeing has ever designed and developed outside the United States.

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"The Australian government's continued investment in the innovative Loyal Wingman program will create jobs and opportunities for over 35 Australian suppliers and small businesses, including BAE Systems Australia, RUAG Australia, AME Systems and Ferra Engineering," said Dr. Brendan Nelson, president of Boeing Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific.

The deal comes on the heels of an announcement Monday that Boeing Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force have successfully completed the first test flight of the drone, which Boeing presented to Australia last May.

A Boeing test pilot monitored the done's flight from a ground control station at the Woomera Range Complex.

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"The Loyal Wingman's first flight is a major step in this long-term, significant project for the Air Force and Boeing Australia, and we're thrilled to be a part of the successful test," said Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, RAAF Head of Air Force Capability.

"The Loyal Wingman project is a pathfinder for the integration of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence to create smart human-machine teams. Through this project we are learning how to integrate these new capabilities to complement and extend air combat and other missions," Roberts said.

According to Boeing, the first Loyal Wingman aircraft will serve as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System being developed for various global defense customers, and will fly alongside other platforms using artificial intelligence to team with existing crewed and uncrewed assets.

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