Aussies aim for $1B in exports of Loyal Wingman, now ‘Ghost Bat’
“Selecting the Ghost Bat, an Australian native mammal known for teaming together in a pack to detect and hunt, reflects the unique characteristics of the aircraft’s sensors and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance abilities, and is a fitting name for this pioneering capability,” Glen Ferguson of Boeing said.
By Colin Clark on March 23, 2022 at 4:16 PM
RAAF AIR BASE AMBERLEY: Australia, clearly thrilled by its apparent success in designing and building a new aircraft for the first time in 50 years, is eagerly aiming for substantial export sales of the Loyal Wingman drone system.[...]
[...]So far, Boeing and the RAAF have built six MQ-28 Ghost Bats, as it’s formally designated. While some have flown, the fleet is now undergoing extensive ground testing.
“Selecting the Ghost Bat, an Australian native mammal known for teaming together in a pack to detect and hunt, reflects the unique characteristics of the aircraft’s sensors and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance abilities, and is a fitting name for this pioneering capability,” Glen Ferguson, who heads the program for Boeing, said at the Monday morning ceremony here.
With the Australian federal budget due next Tuesday, Breaking Defense asked Dutton how many Ghost Bats the government planned to fund. He did not give a direct answer, saying only that ”There is a great utility in having scale and being able to launch an aircraft like this, because it complements what we’re doing with our fast jets and our other assets on water on land.”
That would seem to indicate Australia may well be looking at producing dozens of the Ghost Bat in the next five years, especially if they want to maximize scale as they begin to make foreign sales.[...]
[...]The aircraft uses an open architecture to facilitate integration. While the aircraft can work with sensors and systems from a wide range of countries, it also incorporates components from a number of countries, so Boeing will have to comply with relevant export controls when it’s approached by a customer, Ferguson said.[...]
[...]One of the intriguing things about the drone program is that it is moving at such speed — from nothing to flight and ground testing in three years — that it’s not even clear if there will be any conventional acquisition milestones, such as full production. Instead, after years and years of discussions in Washington and elsewhere about spiral acquisition and upgrades as they path forward for faster acquisition, the Loyal Wingman program appears to actually be doing it effectively. Ferguson said they expect to do unsubstantial upgrades every two years “to get to a next generation of airframes.”
Overall, the Boeing executive said the Australian government’s commitment to the Ghost Bat program “has been unparalleled.” On such a fast-moving program, with the attendant risks, that may be a requirement for it to succeed.
Australia has been big into rapid prototyping and smart manufacturing for years. Much of our mass production of completed items was killed during our political and business obsession with being a quarry and a financial center, but rapid prototyping and agile small batch production has gone from strength to strength.So - what changed that Boeing can clean-sheet a drone from concept to flight in 3 years, but only in Australia?
Meanwhile, the Loyal-Wingman program in the US is stuck with a retrofitted target drone that needs rocket-assisted takeoff.
It is as if some step-change was made in design and manufacturing ability, without any fanfare?
It takes a lot of training to be fully...koalafied...