Boeing’s Loyal Wingman combat drone has taxied under its own power for the first time, carrying out several ground maneuvers at speeds of up to 14 knots (16 mph, 26 km/h) and stopping on command.
The Loyal Wingman is being developed for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), and the aircraft used in the latest test is one of three class prototypes being built under Australia’s Advanced Development Program.
Boeing says the low-speed taxi was carried out to verify the function and integration of drone’s systems, which include steering, braking, and engine controls.
When the 38-ft-long (11.7-m) drone is ready for flight, it will be a jet-powered, autonomous, artificial-intelligence-powered teaming aircraft with a range of 2,000 nm (2,301 mi, 3,704 km) that can fly alongside UAVs and piloted combat aircraft.
The armaments for Loyal Wingman has yet to be revealed, though it will have electronic warfare capabilities.
While the chief customer for Loyal Wingman is the RAAF, Boeing and the 16 Australian industries behind the project also have an eye on the global defense market. Toward that end, Loyal Wingman has a modular nose cone that can be modified for a customer’s specific needs, and it can operate like a conventional aircraft for takeoff, approach and landing for a variety of missions and runway configurations.
“Runway independence ensures the aircraft will be a highly flexible and adaptable system for our global customers,” says Dr. Shane Arnott, program director, Boeing Airpower Teaming System. “This latest test marks the first full unmanned movement of the Loyal Wingman with our Australian partners and takes us a step closer to first flight.”
The video below shows the taxi test.
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