The Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS) prototype has moved under its own power for the first time, conducting low-speed taxi tests at RAAF Base Amberley recently.
The prototype air vehicle is being developed for the RAAF’s Air Force Minor Program DEF 6014 Phase 1 Loyal Wingman requirement, and as a part of Boeing’s global ATS ambitions. The taxi tests milestone comes a month after the aircraft’s engine was powered up for the first time, and about six months after the complete air vehicle was rolled out.
“Air Force partners with industry to ensure we can find innovative solutions to meet our future priorities,” the Head of Air Force Capability, AVM Cath Roberts said in a statement. “Boeing’s Loyal Wingman project is a perfect example of what this collaborative approach can achieve. Seeing the prototype take to the runway for this low-speed taxi test is an exciting moment – another significant development milestone ahead of its first flight.”
The low-speed taxi test saw the air vehicle a speed of 14kts (26km/h) on Amberley’s cross runway, and demonstrated its ability to manoeuvre and stop on command. “The low-speed taxi enabled us to verify the function and integration of the aircraft systems, including steering, braking and engine controls, with the aircraft in motion,” Boeing Australia Flight Test manager, Paul Ryder explained.
Boeing Airpower Teaming System program director, Dr Shane Arnott said, “Runway independence ensures the aircraft will be a highly flexible and adaptable system for our global customers. This latest test marks the first full unmanned movement of the Loyal Wingman with our Australian partners and takes us a step closer to first flight.”
Boeing’s partner on the ATS, BAE Systems Australia supplies the unmanned flight vehicle management solution and simulation capability, as well as more than a dozen guidance, navigation, control, and software engineering experts to the program.
“This is an important milestone for the program and we are pleased to be involved in bringing a new defence capability to life,” BAE Systems Australia Chief Technology Officer, Brad Yelland said in a company statement. “This project highlights our commitment to lead the development of new technologies developed in Australia. The partnership and latest advancement highlights our combined commitment to deliver a world-leading program to the nation leveraging home-grown engineering expertise.”
The ATS prototype is expected to make its first flight from an undisclosed location – thought to be Woomera in South Australia – by the end of 2020.