Royal Australian Air Force [RAAF] News, Discussions and Updates

MARKMILES77

Active Member
With a range of 3,600 km+ and a unit cost potentially in the low single digit millions (if the number purchased is large enough), Loyal Wingman may be very useful as an ultra long range cruise missile, loaded with a 1000-2000 Ib warhead. No need for another aircraft to carry it part way.
 

Boagrius

Well-Known Member
Yes, or a one-way drone fitted with an ISR package to cue other ultra long range weapons like LRASM, JASSM-ER, Tomahawk or (dare I say it?) LRHW/IRCPS. The possibilities are many...
 

ADMk2

Just a bloke
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
Loyal Wingman is going from strength to strength ...wheels up for the testing of the aircraft have been a success

Wheels up for the Loyal Wingman - YouTube

I am curious if loyal wingman will have an internal weapons bay for a ground strike or Air defense role...? I guess time will tell,have not heard any mention of this

Its good that a number of Australian company's are supplying equipment for this project .
This program does seem to be evolving well for the RAAF the ADF and Australia as a whole !
Apparently not. In all the hype for this, many are forgetting it’s a small, subsonic, non-stealthy, un-armed UAV…

That it is being produced here is perhaps the only truly noteworthy thing about it…
 

Morgo

Member
Apparently not. In all the hype for this, many are forgetting it’s a small, subsonic, non-stealthy, un-armed UAV…

That it is being produced here is perhaps the only truly noteworthy thing about it…
I think you’re severely underestimating how radical a capability this could be.

Several sources (including ADBR and ASPI) indicate a weapons payload of between 500 and 1000 pounds internally. Presumably more can be added to external hard points if needed.

It also appears to use significant stealth shaping and use of composites (although presumably not coatings). It’s not going to show up like an airliner or a B-52.

The other remarkable things about it are:
- range of 3,700km. That puts the whole of the South China Sea and the shipping lanes between the southern tip of India and Singapore in range from Tindal and the Cocos Islands
- that it’s been designed from the bottom up to be easily mass produced and fit into existing supply chains where possible
- that it will be manufactured in Australia at Toowoomba (as you note) meaning we’re less / not dependent on imports to continue production in a crisis and could presumably scale production quickly
- the speed at which it has been developed which has been phenomenal
- unit cost in the single digit millions, meaning we can acquire hundreds (or more) of the things.

Honestly if it delivers on the promise I think that this could deliver a capability to Australia that is every bit as revolutionary as nuclear powered subs.
 

hauritz

Well-Known Member
Apparently not. In all the hype for this, many are forgetting it’s a small, subsonic, non-stealthy, un-armed UAV…

That it is being produced here is perhaps the only truly noteworthy thing about it…
I agree, but it is still early days. Perhaps the most significant part of this project however will be the AI component. Once it is developed you can pretty much just drop it into a range of other UAVs.


If you consider that Australia is developing and building its own AI capable drones, planning to locally construct its own missiles and its working with the US on Hypersonic weapons it isn't hard to see a degree of synergy with these projects.
 

ADMk2

Just a bloke
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
I think you’re severely underestimating how radical a capability this could be.

Several sources (including ADBR and ASPI) indicate a weapons payload of between 500 and 1000 pounds internally. Presumably more can be added to external hard points if needed.

It also appears to use significant stealth shaping and use of composites (although presumably not coatings). It’s not going to show up like an airliner or a B-52.

The other remarkable things about it are:
- range of 3,700km. That puts the whole of the South China Sea and the shipping lanes between the southern tip of India and Singapore in range from Tindal and the Cocos Islands
- that it’s been designed from the bottom up to be easily mass produced and fit into existing supply chains where possible
- that it will be manufactured in Australia at Toowoomba (as you note) meaning we’re less / not dependent on imports to continue production in a crisis and could presumably scale production quickly
- the speed at which it has been developed which has been phenomenal
- unit cost in the single digit millions, meaning we can acquire hundreds (or more) of the things.

Honestly if it delivers on the promise I think that this could deliver a capability to Australia that is every bit as revolutionary as nuclear powered subs.
An internal payload of 500-1000bs capability is not a weapons bay… This thing has no radar, no EO/IR pod of any kind, no EW / EWSP at all and likely a very basic comms / navigation fitout, sufficient only to C2 this demonstrator. Which is fine because all it is, IS a concept demonstrator, but all that is going to eat into available payload. The secret sauce is reputedly the on-board AI according to Boeing, but how far that could possibly be advanced with no operational sensors, comms or nav equipment, I am not equipped to say, but very far from a useable capability, clearly.

It‘s shaping for LO leaves a lot to be desired. Admittedly it’s a demonstrator and trials aircraft not a production model, but there are a large amount of flat /slab surfaces on this to suggest that whatever LO has gone into the intended design, it’s not intended to be a full VLO which makes me wonder about it’s usefulness in company with an F-35. There is a reason this has been photographed so obviously in the open, so early in it’s development, yet we see little from Skunkworks, Phantomworks etc… Which suggests again to me that there is very little about this design that ‘needs’ to be hidden from public view. It has no LO engine nozzle, nor any known or observable exhaust gas cooling system to manage it’s IR. Being so easily mass-produced and not using exotic materials nor exacting LO production processes, indicates an extremely radical approach to building a VLO aircraft, or a perfectly normal one for a non-VLO aircraft…

It’s built to fit what supply chains exactly? BDA’s? How do we know this? Boeing won’t even reveal what sort of engine it is using... Probably a Williams or PBS engine or similar but we have no idea for sure.

Got to be careful with range, these aren’t commercial flight one way trips we’re talking about here, unless designed as a defacto cruise missile despite how cheap they may be (and that is far from certain when RAAF start looking at systems to go on these, as opposed to the basic airframe) they will be expected to come home… So that range can be halved when you think about actually using it in combat and then subtracted even further if you wish to add some time on-station…

Then we have issues with it being subsonic, around 400 knots max, if lucky. Are supersonic jets just meant to stay at low cruise speeds like this? What happens to their wingmen should the fast jets, you know, actually go fast?

Like I said, I’m impressed by the notable effort to design and build them here. But I’m not especially jazzed about the particular design, it’s apparent capabilities and the policy dot points on it…
 

Morgo

Member
An internal payload of 500-1000bs capability is not a weapons bay… This thing has no radar, no EO/IR pod of any kind, no EW / EWSP at all and likely a very basic comms / navigation fitout, sufficient only to C2 this demonstrator. Which is fine because all it is, IS a concept demonstrator, but all that is going to eat into available payload. The secret sauce is reputedly the on-board AI according to Boeing, but how far that could possibly be advanced with no operational sensors, comms or nav equipment, I am not equipped to say, but very far from a useable capability, clearly.

It‘s shaping for LO leaves a lot to be desired. Admittedly it’s a demonstrator and trials aircraft not a production model, but there are a large amount of flat /slab surfaces on this to suggest that whatever LO has gone into the intended design, it’s not intended to be a full VLO which makes me wonder about it’s usefulness in company with an F-35. There is a reason this has been photographed so obviously in the open, so early in it’s development, yet we see little from Skunkworks, Phantomworks etc… Which suggests again to me that there is very little about this design that ‘needs’ to be hidden from public view. It has no LO engine nozzle, nor any known or observable exhaust gas cooling system to manage it’s IR. Being so easily mass-produced and not using exotic materials nor exacting LO production processes, indicates an extremely radical approach to building a VLO aircraft, or a perfectly normal one for a non-VLO aircraft…

It’s built to fit what supply chains exactly? BDA’s? How do we know this? Boeing won’t even reveal what sort of engine it is using... Probably a Williams or PBS engine or similar but we have no idea for sure.

Got to be careful with range, these aren’t commercial flight one way trips we’re talking about here, unless designed as a defacto cruise missile despite how cheap they may be (and that is far from certain when RAAF start looking at systems to go on these, as opposed to the basic airframe) they will be expected to come home… So that range can be halved when you think about actually using it in combat and then subtracted even further if you wish to add some time on-station…

Then we have issues with it being subsonic, around 400 knots max, if lucky. Are supersonic jets just meant to stay at low cruise speeds like this? What happens to their wingmen should the fast jets, you know, actually go fast?

Like I said, I’m impressed by the notable effort to design and build them here. But I’m not especially jazzed about the particular design, it’s apparent capabilities and the policy dot points on it…
I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said. And you’re 100% right on the range point. Apologies - school boy error!

This certainly isn’t an unmanned F22 by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s not supposed to be, and it’s unfair to compare it against top end manned aircraft. It’s supposed to be rough and ready, hence the low price. It gives mass to the RAAF. Quantity not quality.

I can envisage these being a cheap, expendable node in a persistent network (with the persistence enabled by the sheer number of platforms in the fleet) which enhances the capabilities of manned platforms operating within that network.

Speed and compromising the stealth of an F35 is less relevant if the LW is already on station ahead and away from an F35 / P8 / Wedgetail / RAN assets. Notwithstanding the publicity shots I don’t think the CONOPS will be wingtip formation flying.

As you say, the two key pieces (among many other dependencies) are the AI and sensors. Time will tell whether these are achieved.
 

cdxbow

Well-Known Member
An internal payload of 500-1000bs capability is not a weapons bay… This thing has no radar, no EO/IR pod of any kind, no EW / EWSP at all and likely a very basic comms / navigation fitout, sufficient only to C2 this demonstrator. Which is fine because all it is, IS a concept demonstrator, but all that is going to eat into available payload. The secret sauce is reputedly the on-board AI according to Boeing, but how far that could possibly be advanced with no operational sensors, comms or nav equipment, I am not equipped to say, but very far from a useable capability, clearly.

It‘s shaping for LO leaves a lot to be desired. Admittedly it’s a demonstrator and trials aircraft not a production model, but there are a large amount of flat /slab surfaces on this to suggest that whatever LO has gone into the intended design, it’s not intended to be a full VLO which makes me wonder about it’s usefulness in company with an F-35. There is a reason this has been photographed so obviously in the open, so early in it’s development, yet we see little from Skunkworks, Phantomworks etc… Which suggests again to me that there is very little about this design that ‘needs’ to be hidden from public view. It has no LO engine nozzle, nor any known or observable exhaust gas cooling system to manage it’s IR. Being so easily mass-produced and not using exotic materials nor exacting LO production processes, indicates an extremely radical approach to building a VLO aircraft, or a perfectly normal one for a non-VLO aircraft…

It’s built to fit what supply chains exactly? BDA’s? How do we know this? Boeing won’t even reveal what sort of engine it is using... Probably a Williams or PBS engine or similar but we have no idea for sure.

Got to be careful with range, these aren’t commercial flight one way trips we’re talking about here, unless designed as a defacto cruise missile despite how cheap they may be (and that is far from certain when RAAF start looking at systems to go on these, as opposed to the basic airframe) they will be expected to come home… So that range can be halved when you think about actually using it in combat and then subtracted even further if you wish to add some time on-station…

Then we have issues with it being subsonic, around 400 knots max, if lucky. Are supersonic jets just meant to stay at low cruise speeds like this? What happens to their wingmen should the fast jets, you know, actually go fast?

Like I said, I’m impressed by the notable effort to design and build them here. But I’m not especially jazzed about the particular design, it’s apparent capabilities and the policy dot points on it…
I find you lack of faith disturbing. I think you are getting to hung up on the current physical platform. As Hauritz points out, the AI is the most important part. Once you nail that you can distribute across different platforms. Downsize to small swarming derivatives or scaling it up to larger and more capable variants.

The current platform is a good middle of the road size and cheap that enables it to add something useful to the capability of the RAAF almost immediately. However the most useful thing it brings is a platform to experiment with and develop with. You need to have multiple working platforms to be able to leverage the possibilities of the AI's fully. Folks need to be able to get their hands on them, play with them, see the possibilities and extend them.

It's a brilliant project and I wish the RAN would follow the same path.
 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
I find you lack of faith disturbing. I think you are getting to hung up on the current physical platform. As Hauritz points out, the AI is the most important part. Once you nail that you can distribute across different platforms. Downsize to small swarming derivatives or scaling it up to larger and more capable variants.

The current platform is a good middle of the road size and cheap that enables it to add something useful to the capability of the RAAF almost immediately. However the most useful thing it brings is a platform to experiment with and develop with. You need to have multiple working platforms to be able to leverage the possibilities of the AI's fully. Folks need to be able to get their hands on them, play with them, see the possibilities and extend them.

It's a brilliant project and I wish the RAN would follow the same path.
Overconfidence is a weakness that can be exploited by ones enemies.

Yes the Loyal Wingman program shows promise, but that is all it is at the moment.

The Loyal Wingman uncrewed aircraft is a pathfinder for the integration of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence to create smart human-machine teams. It is the result of an exciting collaboration between Air Force and Boeing Australia.

The Loyal Wingman will have a range of more than 3,700 kilometers and has been designed to fly as a partner with crewed Air Force platforms. It enables Defence to investigate factors such as the level of automation and autonomy, use of artificial intelligence, and human machine teaming concepts that will ensure Australia’s legal and ethical obligations are met.


It is a test aircraft for the ADF to learn new concepts and technologies. At the moment it is not going to go into operational service. The word that the RAAF use is pathfinder and that has a specific meaning, especially in a RAF, RAAF, RCAF, and RNZAF, context.

Both you and @Morgo are hung up on fantasy. Time for a big dose of reality. None of the dreams that you have of the Loyal Wingman have yet come to pass. It's still in development stage and there's a heck of a lot of work to be done before it or a successor will be anywhere near what you claim it to be. We deal in reality, not fantasy. If you wish to discuss fantasies there are plenty of other forums who will indulge in your desires. Not this one.
 

cdxbow

Well-Known Member
Overconfidence is a weakness that can be exploited by ones enemies.

Yes the Loyal Wingman program shows promise, but that is all it is at the moment.

The Loyal Wingman uncrewed aircraft is a pathfinder for the integration of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence to create smart human-machine teams. It is the result of an exciting collaboration between Air Force and Boeing Australia.

The Loyal Wingman will have a range of more than 3,700 kilometers and has been designed to fly as a partner with crewed Air Force platforms. It enables Defence to investigate factors such as the level of automation and autonomy, use of artificial intelligence, and human machine teaming concepts that will ensure Australia’s legal and ethical obligations are met.


It is a test aircraft for the ADF to learn new concepts and technologies. At the moment it is not going to go into operational service. The word that the RAAF use is pathfinder and that has a specific meaning, especially in a RAF, RAAF, RCAF, and RNZAF, context.

Both you and @Morgo are hung up on fantasy. Time for a big dose of reality. None of the dreams that you have of the Loyal Wingman have yet come to pass. It's still in development stage and there's a heck of a lot of work to be done before it or a successor will be anywhere near what you claim it to be. We deal in reality, not fantasy. If you wish to discuss fantasies there are plenty of other forums who will indulge in your desires. Not this one.
Fantasy becomes reality very quickly in technological systems, although I don't actually agree that anything I have said constitutes absurd fantasy. Fu*king around with the Anzacs, yet again, constitutes fantasy, yet this gets posted repeatedly.

Currently we have 4 flying wingman with a fifth in production. That's not fantasy. That's the AI can be replatformed is not fantasy. The comment about overconfidence is irrelevant, nor do I actually believe I am being over confident, as the program seems to be tracking very well.

I have done a bit of AI development, even though I'm a retired old geezer. We have trained an AI to recognize all the objects in an office as well as visitors to my friends front door. My friend and I are looking at an developing an antidrone system. Funny hobby for retirement I know, but I mention these things to point out the technology is cheap and available. I suspect there are very few posters here who have much experience in the field, thus limiting there ability to see it's potential.

If militaries want to be effective in the 21C they have to embrace machine learning/AI technologies, the loyal wingman, as I have said, is a brilliant way for Oz to get into it. Kudo's to the folks who set it up.
 

vonnoobie

Well-Known Member
My 2 cents.

The loyal wingman has a lot of potential and we should be thinking about how far we could take the potential capability we may acquire from it however at the same time we can't get tunnel vision ignoring any potential issues in regard to this.

At present the LW is just the first step, the most important part as said will be the AI and while we may be able to dump it into various sized drones it will also depend on computing power required as to if we can use an existing or need a new design, depending on how much computing power required could also impact the size of the drone and what they may carry, then if it's a clean sheet design fitted with sensors and various weapons systems you have to go through the process of integrating not just all of those with each other but making sure they work with the AI.

Big possibilities yes but to do it right and worthwhile will take time. That said with the budget allocated towards it in the DWP baring any changes the ADF is taking this seriously and will be pushing the limits but that doesn't mean it will get us any aircraft to field in the front line anytime soon just that they aren't short changing the development.
 

Redlands18

Well-Known Member
One thing to remember, the Air Teaming Vehicles for the RAAF is not due to be funded until 2026 at the earliest so we have a very long way to go before any Loyal Wingman enter RAAF service and that is if they are selected and no one has guaranteed that.
 

John Newman

The Bunker Group
When it comes to the Boeing Loyal Wingman program I don’t think it’s worth getting too bogged down on the size, payload types, etc, of the prototype airframes.

What is important (in my opinion), is the development of the AI, autonomous tech, sensors, etc, and the scaleability of that tech.

For those that may not have seen this, late last year, prior to the first flight of the full size prototype, Boeing Australia tested the autonomous tech using five ‘scale model’ sized aircraft:


Moving forward, and assuming the tech is proven, I can clearly see the tech being applied to a variety of different sized airframes, possibly smaller and potentially even much larger airframes than the current prototypes too.

But of course the requirement by Government needs to be there, needs to be defined, what exactly the Government/RAAF requires is not clear as yet.

Anyway, I think this is very much a ‘watch this space’ project in the coming years.

Cheers,
 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
Fantasy becomes reality very quickly in technological systems, although I don't actually agree that anything I have said constitutes absurd fantasy. Fu*king around with the Anzacs, yet again, constitutes fantasy, yet this gets posted repeatedly.

Currently we have 4 flying wingman with a fifth in production. That's not fantasy. That's the AI can be replatformed is not fantasy. The comment about overconfidence is irrelevant, nor do I actually believe I am being over confident, as the program seems to be tracking very well.

I have done a bit of AI development, even though I'm a retired old geezer. We have trained an AI to recognize all the objects in an office as well as visitors to my friends front door. My friend and I are looking at an developing an antidrone system. Funny hobby for retirement I know, but I mention these things to point out the technology is cheap and available. I suspect there are very few posters here who have much experience in the field, thus limiting there ability to see it's potential.

If militaries want to be effective in the 21C they have to embrace machine learning/AI technologies, the loyal wingman, as I have said, is a brilliant way for Oz to get into it. Kudo's to the folks who set it up.
Look, yes the technology is now available but the Loyal Wingman program is a research program, not a an entry into service program. So don't get your panties into a twist because you have been pulled back to reality. I fully understand where you are coming from because I am retired too, have a science background, love sci-fi, and follow different science programs that show great promise. Whilst there's been a recent breakthrough that brings the possibility of fusion reactors closer, you don't see me posting about the possibilities of fusion reactor powered warships, do you. Certainly when this breakthrough significantly reduces the size of the Tokomak and significantly increases the output by a factor of 15 to 20.

There are also moral ethical issues surrounding the use of AI in the kill chain that have to be discussed, and have only been lightly touched upon. Certain countries such as the PRC and Russia apparently have no problems utilising AI in the kill chain without human intervention. It's one thing to have the potential and capability, but another to use it on the battlefield. We have the ability to manufacture and use mustard gas and other nefarious substances for killing people, but we don't because it's morally repugnant. I knew an old fulla who'd been gassed in WW1 in France. He never spoke about it to me but he was scarred and I could see it. He used to go to the RSA and the Tin Hat Club with my dad who was a WW2 veteran.

My green guidance above stands. If you have a problem with it take it up with one of the Moderators via PM, not on the open forum.
 

cdxbow

Well-Known Member
Look, yes the technology is now available but the Loyal Wingman program is a research program, not a an entry into service program. So don't get your panties into a twist because you have been pulled back to reality. I fully understand where you are coming from because I am retired too, have a science background, love sci-fi, and follow different science programs that show great promise. Whilst there's been a recent breakthrough that brings the possibility of fusion reactors closer, you don't see me posting about the possibilities of fusion reactor powered warships, do you. Certainly when this breakthrough significantly reduces the size of the Tokomak and significantly increases the output by a factor of 15 to 20.

There are also moral ethical issues surrounding the use of AI in the kill chain that have to be discussed, and have only been lightly touched upon. Certain countries such as the PRC and Russia apparently have no problems utilising AI in the kill chain without human intervention. It's one thing to have the potential and capability, but another to use it on the battlefield. We have the ability to manufacture and use mustard gas and other nefarious substances for killing people, but we don't because it's morally repugnant. I knew an old fulla who'd been gassed in WW1 in France. He never spoke about it to me but he was scarred and I could see it. He used to go to the RSA and the Tin Hat Club with my dad who was a WW2 veteran.

My green guidance above stands. If you have a problem with it take it up with one of the Moderators via PM, not on the open forum.
Be nice or I'll tell Jacinta the P8's are bombers and you won't get them.
 
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