The Australian government has announced additional funding of 454 million Australian dollars ($317 million) for the Loyal Wingman program.
The funding will deliver seven recently renamed MQ-28A Ghost Bat drones to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) within the next two to three years, in addition to six purchased in 2021.
“Since 2017 the Coalition Government has invested more than 150 million Australian dollars ($105 million) to support the joint venture between the RAAF and Boeing Defence Australia,” Minister for Defence Peter Dutton said.
The first Ghost Bat took to the sky in February 2021 — a little over two years after project commencement — while a second aircraft has just joined the flight testing program, the minister revealed. Another is being readied for flight testing later this year.
The Ghost Bat is being developed to fly in a Loyal Wingman role controlled by a piloted aircraft. The aircraft could also be controlled from a ground station to perform intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and tactical early warning.
The aircraft features a reconfigurable nose to carry various payloads depending upon the mission.
“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,” Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts said about the feature.