The Boeing Co unmanned combat jet

Boeing unveils unmanned combat jet developed in Australia

NEWS DIGEST–Boeing Co on Wednesday unveiled an unmanned, fighter-like jet developed in Australia and designed to fly alongside crewed aircraft in combat for a fraction of the cost.

The US manufacturer hopes to sell the multi-role aircraft, which is 38 feet long (11.6 meters) and has a 2,000 nautical mile (3,704 km) range, to customers around the world, modifying it as requested.

The prototype is Australia’s first domestically developed combat aircraft since World War II and Boeing’s biggest investment in unmanned systems outside the US, although the company declined to specify the dollar amount.

The Australian government is investing Australian 40 million dollars (28.75 million dollars) in the prototype programme due to its “enormous capability for exports,” Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne told reporters at the Australian International Airshow.

Defense contractors are investing increasingly in autonomous technology as militaries around the world look for a cheaper and safer way to maximize their resources.

Boeing rivals like Lockheed Martin Corp and Kratos Defence and Security Solutions Inc are also investing in such aircraft.

Four to six of the new aircraft, called the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, can fly alongside a F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, said Shane Arnott, director of Boeing research and prototype arm Phantom Works International.

“To bring that extra component and the advantage of unmanned capability, you can accept a higher level of risk,” he said. “It is better for one of these to take a hit than for a manned platform.”

The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies in the United States said last year that the U.S. Air Force should explore pairing crewed and uncrewed aircraft to expand its fleet and complement a limited number of “exquisite, expensive, but highly potent fifth-generation aircraft” like the F-35.

(Reuters/NAN)