The Boeing Loyal Wingman aircraft, an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) being developed with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has manoeuvred on the ground under its own power for the first time, the company announced on 22 October.
The latest achievement marks a key milestone for the Loyal Wingman development programme, with the team expecting to conduct its first flight by the end of 2020.
Boeing Australia said in its statement that the prototype aircraft reached a maximum speed of 26 km/h while manoeuvring and stopping on command.
“The low-speed taxi enabled us to verify the function and integration of the aircraft systems, including steering, braking and engine controls, with the aircraft in motion,” said Boeing Australia Flight Test manager Paul Ryder.
The unmanned aircraft is one of three prototypes that are being developed as a part of the Loyal Wingman-Advanced Development Programme – also known as the Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS) – in partnership with the RAAF.
When fully developed, the fighter-sized ATS will measure approximately 11.7 m in length and have an operational range in excess of 3,000 km. It will also be able to employ electronic warfare or sensor payloads in its modular mission bay, but this could eventually be adapted to carry weapons.
ATS aircraft are envisioned to fly autonomously or semi-autonomously in direct support of RAAF platforms such as the Boeing EA-18G Growler EW, P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol, and E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft, as well as the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.
The latest success also builds on the momentum from earlier milestones, including the first engine power up in September. The fuselage had been completed in February, with the fully assembled aircraft stood on its own wheels and electrical system powered up for the first time in April.
by Jr Ng