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The first military aircraft to be designed and built in Australia in more than 50 years has been rolled out as part of a partnership between the Royal Australian Air Force and Boeing Australia.
The Australian Government has invested up to $40 million in the Boeing Loyal Wingman – Advanced Development Program, alongside Boeing’s largest investment in a new unmanned aircraft program outside the United States.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new capability would help protect and support Australia’s most valuable Defence aircraft and the pilots who fly them.
"We're investing to enhance the agility and capability of the Australian Defence Force so we can protect our nation and our allies. It means Australia can sharpen its edge and prepare for the future," Mr Morrison said.
"Our investment also highlights our Government’s commitment to growing and developing our local defence industry, creating jobs and boosting our global export potential.
"The Loyal Wingman program has helped support around 100 high-tech jobs in Australia. Such projects will be critical to bolster growth and support jobs as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic."
The Loyal Wingman will have a range of more than 3700km, enabling Defence to better understand how these types of aircraft can be used as a force-multiplier, helping to project power forward while keeping manned capabilities out of harm’s way.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the partnership allowed Defence to bring innovation to Australia in an exciting, future-focused technology space.
"The program will examine how autonomous unmanned aircraft can support existing manned aircraft, such as our Joint Strike Fighters, Super Hornets and Growlers," Senator Reynolds said.
"This is Australian ingenuity at its finest and presents Australia and our allies with opportunities for critical capabilities to fight emerging global threat systems."
Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price said the program was welcome news for Australia’s defence industry, particularly suppliers from small businesses.
"This is a truly historic moment for our country. It’s the first time that Australian industry are locally designing, developing and manufacturing an aircraft of this type," Ms Price said.
"This demonstrates the importance of the relationship that Defence has with companies like Boeing, and defence industry more broadly, and provides a fantastic example of the innovation we can achieve together."
The first aircraft is scheduled to begin ground trials soon.