The government has announced an additional investment of $454 million in the Loyal Wingman Program.
Minister for Defence, Peter Dutton, said the investment will deliver seven uncrewed autonomous aerial vehicles - recently named MQ-28A Ghost Bat – to come into service with the RAAF within the next two years.
“Since 2017 the Government has invested more than $150 million dollars to support the joint venture between the RAAF and Boeing Defence Australia to deliver a world-leading air system that will team with existing air combat aircraft and conduct air combat, reconnaissance and surveillance missions, ” Minister Dutton said.
“In just four years our partnership with Boeing has successfully designed, manufactured and flown the first Australian-built military combat aircraft in 50 years.
“This investment today will see the MQ-28A systems expected to enter service with the RAAF in 2024-25.”
“Over 70 per cent of each aircraft is sourced, designed and manufactured in Australia, by Australians,” Minister Dutton said.
“This investment will more than double the Australian workforce directly associated with the program, generating a significant number of advanced engineering and high-tech jobs in the aviation and Defence advanced technologies sectors, particularly in Brisbane.
“In addition to the direct engagement with Boeing Defence Australia, our investment will see the program expand to support engagement of an additional 46 Australian companies, alongside international partners and allies.
“This will result in the number of businesses engaged in this program growing from 35 to 81 companies, along with many more highly-skilled jobs.”
“This investment in world-leading technology further advances Australia’s first-mover status in a highly competitive industry and establishes the Loyal Wingman Program as a serious competitor in key export markets.”
Minister Dutton also said the rapid development of uncrewed air combat capability could offer "potential benefits for allies and partners in the region and around the world."
“By sharing technology and leveraging the expertise of our US partners, the MQ-28A aircraft will be interoperable with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region ensuring that our combined air combat forces are enhanced and stand ready to defend Australia and its national interests."
The MQ-28A aircraft first flight took place in February 2021, just two years and three months from project commencement. A second aircraft has joined the flight test program, with a third aircraft being readied for flight testing later in 2022.