DigitalSea wrote:Can't imagine the inherent challenges involved with an unmanned EW platform. Hope it works out!
Ruscoe wrote:It's interesting also because I'm pretty sure that the RAAF are the only other Air Force apart from USA to have the F18 Growler, with the possibility of Finland also getting them in the future..
DigitalSea wrote:I guess I'm looking at a more dynamic contested environment with a near-peer adversary where EA could disrupt the link with the UCAV. But if the trend continues of fighting proxy wars in 2nd/3rd world nations, then I'd imagine this aircraft wouldn't have much of a problem at all.
Australian designed and built autonomous drones could fly alongside RAAF aircraft acting as a “wingman” that would take enemy fire or increase attack firepower, if a research program revealed by aerospace giant Boeing takes off.
The company and the federal government on Wednesday revealed the until-now secretive program that has been underway for several years in Brisbane.
Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said the federal government would invest $40 million over four years to develop a test model of what would be the first new Australian-backed military aircraft since World War II.
Dubbed the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, or “Loyal Wingman”, Boeing expects to build and test a concept model of the almost 12-metre armed and unmanned aircraft in Australia in 2020.
Between four and 16 of the drones, guided with artificial intelligence, would accompany military aircraft - including Australia’s F-35, Hornet, Super Hornet, Growler, Poseidon and Wedgtail jets – to expand their attacking power and range.
The drones, unveiled at the Avalon Airshow near Geelong on Wednesday, would also serve as an expendable shield that would take fire when under attack.
“You just extend your reach because you’ve got a team of these systems that fly alongside you that you’re in command of,” said Shane Arnott, a director of Boeing’s defence and security research arm.
“The air commander or the operator can take increased risk because you haven’t got a person in this particular platform. So as you go into the higher threat environment it’s better for one of these to take a hit than it is for a manned platform.”
Dr Arnott said demand from customers would determine whether the Wingman would go into production, and that other militaries were already showing interest.
"One of the reasons we’ve done this in Australia... [is] there’s a lot of space for us to go and fly and try, and fail, and hopefully succeed,” he said.
If it goes into production, Boeing said it intended to build the drones somewhere in Australia, which Mr Pyne said would bring significant opportunities to export the Wingman to other Five Eyes military partners.
“This is the first aircraft concept that Australia has invested in, in the military, since the Boomerang [fighter aircraft] in 1942 to ’45,” Mr Pyne said.
“But more importantly it’s the decision by the government to invest in the capability here in Australia - our own ingenuity, or own innovation, supporting Australian research and development.”
However Mr Pyne said the program was years away from possible exports or the drones entering Australia’s military arsenal.
Boeing developed the Loyal Wingman concept and pitched to the Australian government and RAAF.
“Boeing, like many other corporations around the world… recognised that Australia was taking seriously the largest build up in our military capability in peace time history, and all of those companies are interested in being part of that story," he said.
Planeflyer wrote:The RAAF is very impressive.
Uniformed as I am the ac looks like it could easily be $10-20 million per copy.
Looking at what the RAAF is doing compared to the recent decision is Germany is just mind boggling.
bikerthai wrote:I would not be surprised if the US has it's finger in this project as part of a co-development team as well, except this time the RAAF is taking the lead.
“Boeing, for the first time, has reached offshore to develop a military aircraft specifically intended for sale globally.” So starts Graham Warwick’s article on the “Loyal Wingman” drone this past week for Aviation Week & Space Technology. Robin Laird similarly covered the development for Breaking Defense. The program was announced at the biennial Avalon Airshow in Australia, but the company is not just currying local favor, and simply aiming to sell the new plane to the RAAF. That customer is discerning, but not big enough to absorb such a program on its own. Boeing is rather seeking, as Warwick writes, a “more flexible business model” that can produce a range of products “intended to be more easily and flexibly tailored to the needs of export customers than a U.S. system.” That Boeing needs to move offshore should be a wakeup call to the Congress that something is rotten in the American arms-export regime.
We should not understate this development. As Laird cites Shane Arnott, the director of Boeing’s Phantom Works, “this is the first time that Boeing has designed and developed an aircraft, an unmanned aircraft, outside the United States in our hundred-year history.” Will be, perhaps, as the Loyal Wingman is so far just a mock-up. To be fair, seeking the best engineering talent worldwide is a sensible pursuit for any engineering-intensive company, and Australia clearly has talent. Boeing is also leveraging its large (if relatively newly large) presence in Australia for industrial capacities, and the country’s vast, open airspace for testing and training. But most remarkably, Arnott specifically cited the Commonwealth’s new export policy as important “in shaping global opportunities.”
How so? Consider how challenging American arms exports can be, and for the most picayune of reasons. Every export of a minor upgrade or even a spare part must be tediously and recurrently approved by Foggy Bottom’s Office of Regional Security and Arms Transfers, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, and the various other inter-agency agencies of America’s arms-export bureaucracy. Ultimately, almost everything will be approved, but only after mysterious delays and a 4.7 percent carrying charge for the administration of the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. Almost, I note, for there are the occasional excesses, such as forbidding ally Israel from selling upgraded-but-second-hand fighter jets to NATO ally Croatia. Meanwhile, sales to loathsome regimes around the world may continue apace, and with the official endorsement of the FMS system. Because hey, “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
Reflect on that for a moment, and behold the spectacle of the United States' largest aircraft manufacturer choosing to go overseas not just to build an airplane, but to develop one, and in its entirety, for a purely political reason.
Ozair wrote:Read an interesting observation on this new drone and the reasons for Boeing developing and looking to probably build the aircraft in Australia. James Hasik, a now academic and author I follow, had the following to say on why Boeing went with Australia.
Legs wrote:Ozair wrote:Read an interesting observation on this new drone and the reasons for Boeing developing and looking to probably build the aircraft in Australia. James Hasik, a now academic and author I follow, had the following to say on why Boeing went with Australia.
Won't Boeing Australia be treading a pretty fine line with ITARS et al already? They wont be able to make use of any Boeing US assets without having those restrictions placed upon at least parts of the program, right?
bikerthai wrote:Note that ITAR only applies to technology developed by the US. Anything developed in Australia would be subjected to it's own regulations.
bikerthai wrote:As for Australian access to US ITAR info, safety to say that with the development of the F-35, P-8A, BAMS etc, getting an ITAR liscense for Australia is not a show stopper.
frmrCapCadet wrote:I'm sure North Korea and Iran will order a couple dozen. LOL. More seriously who gets to buy them is a legitimate question.
Ozair wrote:Those licenses don't provide Australia with the ability to export though, hence the decision to develop in Australia away from those restrictions
Ozair wrote:Legs wrote:Ozair wrote:Read an interesting observation on this new drone and the reasons for Boeing developing and looking to probably build the aircraft in Australia. James Hasik, a now academic and author I follow, had the following to say on why Boeing went with Australia.
Won't Boeing Australia be treading a pretty fine line with ITARS et al already? They wont be able to make use of any Boeing US assets without having those restrictions placed upon at least parts of the program, right?
There will be a fine line between reusing US systems compared to development or reusing for example European systems.bikerthai wrote:Note that ITAR only applies to technology developed by the US. Anything developed in Australia would be subjected to it's own regulations.
Indeed and the insinuation is that Australia is looking to become a bigger player in the defence export market.bikerthai wrote:As for Australian access to US ITAR info, safety to say that with the development of the F-35, P-8A, BAMS etc, getting an ITAR liscense for Australia is not a show stopper.
Those licenses don't provide Australia with the ability to export though, hence the decision to develop in Australia away from those restrictions.frmrCapCadet wrote:I'm sure North Korea and Iran will order a couple dozen. LOL. More seriously who gets to buy them is a legitimate question.
Just regionally you could see interest from Japan, Singapore and Korea. All are operators of US aircraft including F-35 and would almost certainly be keen to operate an unmanned platform alongside their US fleets. Depending on how Australia develops the platform will also impact export potential, if they look for as low a cost platform as possible with specific dedicated systems or perhaps make the aircraft more modular to allow nations to equip their own sensors and systems.
On March 5 the Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie undertook its first flight at the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona. The inaugural flight lasted for 76 minutes and was achieved around two and a half years after the XQ-58A development contract was awarded to the company in July 2016 (as the LCASD—Low Cost Attritable Strike UAS Demonstration). The flight-test campaign currently envisions five flights in two phases that will evaluate functionality and aerodynamic performance, as well as launch and recovery techniques.
The Valkyrie program is a partnership between Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems—best known for its aerial target systems—and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). The air vehicle has been developed as a demonstrator for a low-cost, runway-independent demonstrator for a UCAV (unmanned combat air vehicle) that can operate as “loyal wingmen” to aircraft such as the F-22 and F-35, or in swarms controlled by a reconnaissance asset.
“XQ-58A is the first example of a class of UAV that is defined by low procurement and operating costs while providing game-changing combat capability,” said Doug Szczublewski, AFRL’s XQ-58A program manager. The program is part of the laboratory’s LCAAT (Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology) initiative that seeks to reduce development time and build costs by introducing better design tools and by looking at the commercial industry for improved manufacturing processes.
Reducing acquisition costs to figures perhaps as low as $2 million apiece allows air vehicles to be acquired in large numbers and, while intended as a reusable asset, a certain level of attrition in the force during operations becomes far more acceptable and sustainable than with more expensive vehicles.
Originally designated XQ-222 by Kratos, the XQ-58A is a high-subsonic vehicle of around 29-foot (8.8-meter) length with stealthy features. It is powered by a single jet engine and has a range in the region of 3,000 miles. It has two internal weapon bays for a 500-pound (227-kg) warload that would typically comprise two GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs. Underwing hardpoints are also envisioned. The air vehicle is launched from a stand with rocket assistance and recovered by parachute, freeing it from reliance on a runway.
Kratos also offers the UTAP-22 as a UCAV, a smaller design based on the BQM-167A target drone. In late 2015, the company demonstrated the UTAP-22's use as a co-operative UCAV flying with an AV-8B Harrier II of the U.S. Marine Corps, and also in swarming tests with multiple UTAP-22s. During these trials the UCAVs operated both autonomously and in semi-autonomous modes, demonstrating independent weapon release and subsequent formation rejoining. Such capabilities would be central to the larger XQ-58A's intended operational application.
himself wrote:Q-58 is a neat idea, and I'm glad it's working so quickly, but is the *no runway* aspect that important? I'd imagine that with that high-mounted intake, they could launch from unimproved, reasonably straight roads, and do away with the complexity/weight of the chute and RATO. It'd be hard to ingest rocks & dust from the other side of the aircraft.
Ozair wrote:The ‘no runway’ is probably a cost reduction feature of the program.
The head of the Royal Australian Air Force’s air combat group says he’s excited by the prospect of Australian pilots flying alongside a ‘loyal wingman’ unmanned aircraft like the one Boeing is developing in Brisbane.
Air Commodore Mike Kitcher says the drone, which will be the first combat-capable aircraft to be designed and built in Australia since the Boomerang in 1942, will present both cultural and technical challenges but the air force will be ready to tackle them.
‘The idea behind the loyal wingman concept is quite a sound one. The practicalities of executing it will prove challenging but are well worth investing in.
‘A loyal wingman that has greater flexibility to aid the defensive or survivability characteristics of a manned platform or indeed augment the lethality of that manned platform by carrying weapons—that’s quite an exciting concept, but it’s early days yet’, he told The Strategist.
And while it might seem intuitive, he says the unmanned plane isn’t likely to lead to an overall reduction in demand for the people the air force needs.
‘I think considering less people would probably be a false economy. I would like to think that those people that are operating the airframe will be far more lethal, survivable and combat capable, enabled by that loyal wingman concept.’
Kitcher told a briefing on the status of the RAAF’s F-35 program at the Australian International Airshow at Avalon that the biggest challenge he faces as head of air combat group is attracting and retaining enough people to run his operation.
‘At the moment, in introducing the F-35 capability the biggest challenges that I see are people. Enough qualified technicians, tradespeople and engineers to actually support the aircraft and its myriad systems, and then people to fly the aircraft.’
The first two RAAF F-35s arrived on Australian soil in December last year, though there are eight more currently being used on training programs in the US. And despite the workforce challenge, Kitcher says he’s happy with the current status of the F-35 project.
‘It would be fair to say it’s very early days’, says Kitcher. ‘I’ll be much more comfortable saying that things are going smoothly in about 12 to 15 months’ time, by mid next year, when we’ve got 12 to 16 aircraft operating in Australia.
‘I think it’d be quite premature to say that everything’s under control’, he says. ‘Things are looking positive at the moment, but there’s a long way to go over the next couple of years to get to IOC.’
The plan to get the F-35 to initial operating capability involves having eight jets in Australia by the end of the year and 30 jets on the ground by the end of 2020.
Kitcher’s biggest priority on that path, though, is making sure the RAAF achieves a ‘sovereign training capability’, meaning it trains all its F-35 pilots and ground crew domestically without the need for them to go to the US, as is currently the case.
‘Being able to conduct sovereign training for Australia is very important, in fact, I think the most important component of our initial operating capability.
‘If we don’t have, if you like, the engine room that is our training capability, then it’s going to be difficult to get to our final operating capability.
That final level of readiness is due in late 2023, by which time the RAAF’s full complement of 72 jets should be in the country.
Understandably, Kitcher doesn’t want to present an opinion on whether the government should acquire an extra squadron of F-35s, as has been mooted, or pursue other options, though among geopolitical and budgetary factors, he mentions that the progress of the ‘loyal wingman’ project may be a factor in that decision.
After coming in for a large amount of criticism over the past several years, the F-35’s aerial performance is now getting more positive reports from exercises like ‘Red Flag’ in the US, which Kitcher flew in last month in a ‘Classic’ Hornet as part of an Australian contingent alongside American and British aircraft.
He says the new jet’s performance was good, but what impressed him more was the way the F-35 integrated with older aircraft like his and enabled them to better do their own jobs.
‘It was actually better than I expected at this stage.
‘Certainly I felt far more empowered and enabled by the fact that that there were F-35s there and, to a certain extent, US Navy Super Hornets as well there making our Classic Hornet capability better than what it would otherwise be.’
During the exercise the ‘blue’ side didn’t have things all its own way, but in some of the missions Kitcher flew in, the F-35 led the way in gaining superiority over the ‘red’ team.
‘They kicked the door down against a fairly determined air adversary. They then retired back towards the strike train while F-22s came over the top and held that door open.
‘The F-35s then, using their sensors and other capabilities, led a combined strike package that took the Classic Hornet formation that I was flying in, a US Navy Super Hornet formation and a [British] Typhoon formation, supported by US Navy Growlers and US Air Force F-16s, deep into enemy territory against a significant surface-to-air threat to deliver precision-guided weapons on targets, and the F-35s provided sensor awareness that would otherwise have been unavailable to myself flying a Classic Hornet.’
While the RAAF is working to integrate the F-35 with other aircraft and use it to enhance their capabilities, Kitcher says there may be scenarios in which the jet operates on its own because it may be too risky to fly less advanced aircraft on the same missions.
‘The primary focus of our validation and verification activities will be ensuring the F-35 value-adds to the entire ADF capability and improves our entire capability while preserving the option to use the F-35 on its own if the threat environment requires that.’
It’s not just other RAAF aircraft that the F-35 will work with. Kitcher says integration with the navy’s new air warfare destroyers will be key to getting the most out of the jet.
That kind of capability, and the development of ‘sovereign mission data files’ to optimise the F-35 for Australia-specific requirements, go beyond what the RAAF has done in the past.
‘With the F-35, it’s a completely different way of doing business’, he says.
The US Air Force (USAF) is developing an attritable unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that it plans to fly as early as 2023, the service disclosed on 27 March.
Dubbed Skyborg, the 'loyal wingman' designed to help manned aircraft operate in defended airspace is the brainchild of the Air Force Office of Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
"Skyborg is a vessel for AI [artificial intelligence] technologies that could range from rather simple algorithms to fly the aircraft and control them in airspace to the introduction of more complicated levels of AI to accomplish certain tasks or subtasks of the mission," AFRL Aerospace Systems Directorate engineer Matt Duquette was quoted by the USAF as saying.
On 15 March the SDPE issued a capability request for information (CRFI) to conduct market research and concept of operations analysis to learn what is currently commercially available at high technology readiness levels that can meet the requirements and timeline of the Skyborg programme.
As noted by the USAF, the Skyborg is envisaged as a low-cost unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) that 'can bring mass to the fight' when addressing potential near-peer engagements in the future. While not expendable, the attritable UAV will need to be cheap enough not to deter potential losses.
Building on the Have Raider and Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS) programmes that have employed AI, the Skyborg has been officially put forward as a fiscal year 2019 funded pathfinder programme.
Boeing Australia is accelerating development of the Loyal Wingman unmanned aerial vehicle the company is developing in Melbourne and Brisbane for the RAAF.
The company has advanced laboratory and prototype development in preparation for first flight of prototypes next year.
Boeing has fielded 15 autonomous test bed aircraft to refine autonomous control algorithms, data fusion, object detection systems, and collision avoidance behaviours, according to Dr. Shane Arnott, director of Boeing’s Phantom Works International.
Arnott said: “We’ve flown 10 of those autonomous test beds in formation using our mission system technology.
“We are continuing to increase the speed and complexity of our testing, most recently with five much larger high-performance jets with the capacity to fly up to 300 kilometers per hour, ahead of the full-speed prototype flight.”
In February the Australian Government annouced the programme to develop a prototype aircraft that will test the potential of unmanned military aircraft.
The Loyal Wingman is designed to protect and extend airpower by teaming multiple unmanned platforms with manned assets such as Australia’s F-35 Lightning aircraft to achieve a range of missions.
RAAF aircraft such as the F-35 and F-18 Growlers are communications nodes that can assimilate date from multiple sources and control multiple military assets, including unmanned aircraft.
Arnott said: “Our aircraft and mission system is well advanced in our rigorous design and test programme, bolstered by Boeing’s adoption of digital engineering.
“As a result, we have a live digital copy of the entire aircraft design that we have been able to “fly” thousands of times under different scenarios to test aircraft performance and the mission system.”
The Boeing team is using its world-class Systems Analysis Laboratory based in Brisbane, Australia, to simulate and model critical mission capabilities and the aircraft product lifecycle.
“That is making the real difference in ensuring we can maintain an agile schedule, and offer a truly affordable, unmanned teaming solution for global customers.”
Arnott described the Loyal Wingman as ‘attritable’, by which he meant loss of one aircraft in formation would not effect the ability of a group of craft to complete its mission.
Military Aircraft Every type from fighters to helicopters from air forces around the globe
Classic Airliners Props and jets from the good old days
Flight Decks Views from inside the cockpit
Aircraft Cabins Passenger cabin shots showing seat arrangements as well as cargo aircraft interior
Cargo Aircraft Pictures of great freighter aircraft
Government Aircraft Aircraft flying government officials
Helicopters Our large helicopter section. Both military and civil versions
Blimps / Airships Everything from the Goodyear blimp to the Zeppelin
Night Photos Beautiful shots taken while the sun is below the horizon
Accidents Accident, incident and crash related photos
Air to Air Photos taken by airborne photographers of airborne aircraft
Special Paint Schemes Aircraft painted in beautiful and original liveries
Airport Overviews Airport overviews from the air or ground
Tails and Winglets Tail and Winglet closeups with beautiful airline logos