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Boeing Australia advances flight testing of Loyal Wingman
Wednesday, 10 November 2021
Teams have gathered aircraft performance data that will be used to inform and refine the digital twin of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System. Work to establish a final assembly facility in Toowoomba are also under way.

Boeing Australia has expanded its flight-test program of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, with two aircraft completing separate flight missions at the Woomera Range Complex. In addition, its Melbourne facility has recently commenced its fifth Airpower Teaming System aircraft, and work is ongoing to establish a final assembly facility in Toowoomba, Queensland.

The first Loyal Wingman aircraft developed with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) demonstrated a range of key characteristics during the test flights to continue to expand the flight envelope. A second aircraft also completed its first flight mission.

Throughout the flight-test missions, the teams gathered aircraft performance data that will be used to inform and refine the digital twin of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, with the view to accelerate development of the aircraft where possible.

The flight tests of aircraft one included the first time the landing gear was raised and engaged. RUAG Australia supplied the landing gear systems to the aircraft, and BAE Systems Australia was key in the design, supply and support of the flight control and navigation systems tested during the flights.

The first batch of Loyal Wingman aircraft are serving as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System being developed for various global defence customers. The aircraft will fly alongside other platforms, using artificial intelligence to team with existing crewed and uncrewed assets to complement mission capabilities.

The 38 ft long uncrewed aircraft, designed to fly alongside crewed assets, is Australia's first sovereign-designed and produced military combat aircraft in over 50 years. The first aircraft rolled out of the Melbourne factory in May 2020, which is also home to Boeing Aerostructures Australia and Boeing Australia's R&D facilities.

“We approached the design of the air vehicle and production system together with a ‘design-for-cost’ philosophy,” says Andrew Glynn, director of Airpower Teaming System Vehicle Design and Production. “While we've developed a clean sheet design featuring many new technologies, we've also made smart decisions by incorporating off-the-shelf components and leveraging digital engineering to optimise both speed-to-market and design producibility.

“By collaborating with our Australian industry team, including RUAG Australia and Ferra Engineering, throughout the design process we've been able to incorporate ‘design-for-manufacture’ features across all air vehicle components and sub-systems.”

The Airpower Teaming System team says it took advantage of Melbourne's commercial manufacturing aircraft experience on Boeing 787 wings' trailing edge. The carbon fibre technology enables the components to be cured without a traditional autoclave.

The team also realised the benefits of additive manufacturing by printing a large number of flyaway parts on-site to help support rapid insertion of the prototype aircraft and adoption of digital engineering.

“The team adopted three key manufacturing innovations for the Airpower Teaming System in the areas of robotic drill and fill, shimless assembly and full-size determinant assembly to significantly reduce assembly costs compared with traditional methods,” says Glynn. “We've completely removed manual drilling from our production system improving safety, quality and efficiency across our manufacturing operations. To achieve this, we have designed all components to have pre-drilled holes by our suppliers at the sub-component level, allowing the final assembly to snap together without the need for any manual drilling in the factory.”

“Our team has produced Boeing's largest resin-infused single composite components for the Loyal Wingman leveraging proven technology,” adds Adnan Raghdo, director and Chief Engineer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Fabrication, Composite Capability. “Extensive computational modelling was used up front to simulate and optimise the manufacturing process which enabled 'virtual learning' ahead of the first part.”

“It is so exciting seeing two aircraft in the air as the Loyal Wingman continues to excel in the flight-test program,” says Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, RAAF head of air force capability. “This opens up significant capability agility for Air Force, particularly with features such as the reconfigurable nose. We're heavily engaged in the payload development and the element of surprise that it gives us in the battlespace. You never really know what's in the nose.”

“We're in a steady rhythm of flight testing on the way to mission and operational testing, enabling Boeing Australia, RAAF and our Australian industry team of more than 35 companies to progressively advance the flight characteristics and capabilities of the uncrewed teaming system,” says Glen Ferguson, director of Boeing Airpower Teaming System for Australia and International.

Contact details from our directory:
Boeing Australia Ltd. Final Assembly
Boeing Aerostructures Australia Aircraft Doors, Aircraft Flooring, Aircraft Structural Components, Airframer, Composite Manufacturing Services, Composite Structures, Computer-aided Design, Empennages, Fairings, Fuselage Sections, Metal Structures, Wing Flaps, Winglets, Wings
RUAG Australia Pty Ltd Additive Manufacturing, Aircraft Landing Gear, Anodizing Services, Cadmium Plating, Electroless Plating, Etching, Hydraulic Actuators, Machining Services, Metal Finishing/Polishing, Metal Treatment, Non-Destructive Testing, Paint Application, Passivation, Precision Bearings, Shot Peening
Ferra Aerospace Aircraft Structural Components, Control Panels, Precision Machined Parts
BAE Systems Australia Aircraft Structural Components, Automatic Flight Control Systems, Electronic Warfare Systems, Flight Management Systems, Flight Testing, Simulation Systems, Surveillance/Air Defense Radar, Training
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