The Loyal Wingman concept has taken a significant step forward following recent technology demonstrations at Patuxent River.
Boeing and the US Navy have announced the successful demonstration of two autonomously controlled EA-18G Growlers during the Navy Warfare Development Command’s annual Fleet Experiment (FLEX).
The experiment involved the Growlers acting as unmanned systems under the control of a third Growler to prove the effectiveness of F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircrew to remotely control fighter and attack platforms from the cockpit.
According to Tom Brandt, the Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) demonstration lead at Boeing, “This demonstration allows Boeing and the Navy the opportunity to analyze the data collected and decide where to make investments in future technologies.”
The demonstration involved twenty one missions in four sorties. Brandt went on to say “This technology allows the Navy to extend the reach of sensors while keeping manned aircraft out of harm’s way.”
This is an interesting development for the Royal Australian Air Force and its Super Hornet and Growler fleets, with Brandt describing the capability as “… a force multiplier that enables a single aircrew to control multiple aircraft without greatly increasing workload. It has the potential to increase survivability as well as situational awareness.”
Boeing Australia is rapidly evolving its autonomous systems technology and is preparing for the first flight of its Loyal Wingman prototype later this year.