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Loyal Wingman officially named MQ-28A Ghost Bat

The first Australian-made uncrewed combat air vehicle, Boeing’s Loyal Wingman, has successfully completed its flight test program, and has officially been named the MQ-28A Ghost Bat in a ceremony at RAAF Base Amberley.

While he declined to commit to a formal purchase or to disclose potential quantities, Minister for Defence Peter Dutton’s announcement signals a strong intent to bring the re-named aircraft into frontline RAAF service in significant numbers. The cost to date of the MQ-28A program, compared with the cost of developing manned aircraft, has also challenged traditional paradigms.

“As air warfare grows more complex and more sophisticated, remotely piloted aircraft and other uncrewed platforms are becoming increasingly vital assets for modern militaries,” Minister Dutton said.

“Our partnership with Boeing has successfully designed, manufactured and flown the first Australian-built military combat aircraft in 50 years. This new capability allows us to introduce more mass into the battlespace. An adversarial aircraft would not only have to contend with our crewed capability, but also numbers of uncrewed aircraft such as the MQ-28A Ghost Bat.

“The three test flight series have been successful and with a range of 3,700 kilometres, it complements our deterrence objective to hold a potential adversary’s forces and infrastructure at risk from a greater distance.”

Since 2017 the Australian Government has invested more than $150 million dollars to support the joint venture between the RAAF and Boeing Defence Australia (BDA) to deliver the MG-28A that will team with existing air combat aircraft and conduct air combat, reconnaissance and surveillance missions.

The project is also set to generate greater advanced manufacturing opportunities throughout Queensland and across Australia as production ramps up in coming years. BDA has confirmed the aircraft will be built at Wellcamp Aircraft near Toowoomba in southeastern Queensland.

“More than 35 Australian companies have contributed to the MQ-28A Ghost Bat program, with future aircraft to be produced in Toowoomba,” Minister Dutton said.

“This is yet another example of the Morrison Government’s commitment to investing in leading-edge military platforms for the ADF, strengthening Australia’s defence industry, and growing our sovereign industrial capabilities.”

Royal Australian Air Force Head of Air Force Capability, Air Vice-Marshal Robert Denney, said that the new name held special significance to the aircraft.

“The selection of the new common name Ghost Bat is a key milestone in our continuing advancement of this critical capability for Air Force, and this unique name aligns well with the intent of the aircraft.

“Ghost Bat reflects the intended mission and operational capabilities of the aircraft. A ghost bat is an Australian hunter which uses sophisticated multi-spectral sensors to detect, hunt and kill prey both in the air and on the ground.

“They team together in large numbers to confuse and overwhelm their adversaries and are native to Australia,” Air Vice Marshal Denney said.

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