Those nostalgic for the aces of aviation, the heroes Tanguy and Laverdure or even Maverick in “Top gun” will be at their expense. Soon, aerial combat will no longer be played with the dexterity of a pilot firmly harnessed in his machine, but from a control center … On the ground.
Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) have just completed the first flight test of an unmanned fighter jet. Called “Loyal Wingman”, this 11.6 m long aircraft with a range of 3,704 kilometers, can carry weapons and serve as a shield to protect other fighter planes. Equipped with artificial intelligence, it will be able to perform combat maneuvers faster than piloted devices, intercept missiles, carry out surveillance missions or go on hostile terrain, without risking losing crews … Military drones exist to perform actions including strikes, but these devices remain vulnerable.
“The Loyal Wingman’s maiden flight is a major milestone in this long-term and important project for the Air Force and Boeing Australia,” said Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, RAAF chief of the capacity of the Air Force in Australia by adding: “The Loyal Wingman Project is a pioneer in the integration of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence to create intelligent human-machine teams. “
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According to Boeing, after a series of taxi tests validating ground handling, navigation and pilot control and interface, the aircraft successfully took off on its own power before following a predetermined course at different speeds and altitudes for check the flight functionality. This test was carried out under the supervision of a Boeing pilot controlling the procedure from a ground station in the state of South Australia.
For Boeing, this aircraft is a good opportunity for the future, while the aircraft manufacturer is still bogged down with the disasters of the 737 Max and more recently the technical failures on several of its Boeing 787. This first unmanned fighter is intended to be produced. in Australia, in a country that has not built fighter jets for 50 years. The Australian government, which has already invested nearly $ 30 million in this project, intends to add an additional $ 89 million to acquire three more devices. But this aircraft is also intended to equip other armies around the world, which are looking for less expensive means than “traditional” and safer aircraft to avoid human losses.