Chicago-based aerospace giant Boeing has announced plans to build a new type of military drone aircraft in Australia
Boeing said on Wednesday it had chosen the town of Toowoomba, Queensland, as the final assembly point for its Loyal Wingman unmanned aircraft. The first test flights were carried out earlier this year.
The announcement comes less than a week after the United States, Britain and Australia announced a new security alliance that will provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. The deal was condemned by China and exacerbated tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.
Scott Carpendale, chief executive of Boeing Defense Australia, said development of the new aircraft will proceed as planned. He said it uses artificial intelligence to work in tandem with manned airplanes and that it was designed, engineered and developed in Australia.
It is the first military fighter aircraft designed and manufactured in Australia for half a century. Boeing Australia is currently developing six of these aircraft in partnership with the Royal Australian Air Force.
Carpendale said no orders have been confirmed, but the Australian government appears confident and happy with the Loyal Wingman’s capabilities.
“There is significant interest from other countries,” added Carpendale.
He said the drone will be built at a facility at Wellcamp Airport, which is owned by Wagner Corp.
Wagner chairman John Wagner said he hoped a defense and aerospace enclosure at the airport would attract more companies in similar fields.
The project is expected to create 300 jobs during construction of the facility and 70 ongoing operational and production positions.
Queensland State Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the announcement was “fantastic news” and marks the first time that Boeing has installed such a facility outside of North America.