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Revolutionizing Aerial Combat: King of the Sky Introduces Boeing Loyal Wingman Drone

A transformation as remarkable as the shift from propellers to jets, the upcoming major breakthrough in military aviation will be even more formidable, as it replaces the pilot with silicon.

Introducing the Loyal Wingman, the next generation of military aircraft that will effectively remove the human from the cockpit. New drones, such as the Turkish Bayraktar, have substantially altered the course of wars and their future role can no longer be dismissed.

The technology is rapidly advancing to the point where it becomes more efficient to operate a fleet of drone aircraft than human-based fighter pilots. But does this usher in a golden era, or are we merely setting ourselves up for a real-life terminator scenario? Let’s dive in.

Drones have a longer history than you might think. The first military drone-like devices were balloon bombs that Field Marshal von Radetzky of Austria used to attack Venice – rather unsuccessfully, it’s worth noting – in 1849.

Their capabilities have grown increasingly advanced. Crucially, drones are being developed to work in tandem with manned aircraft, such as fighter jets.

The emerging category of highly intelligent drones known as ‘Loyal Wingman’ is already being tested, and their role with sixth-generation fighter jets is of particular interest.

Over time, UAVs or drones have evolved to include missions such as manned-unmanned teaming, aerial refueling, electronic warfare, and other military-related functions. In fact, just recently, the US performed the first mid-air refueling with a drone aircraft, breaking new ground in the class’s utility.

A recent report stated that over 5,000 drone aircraft will be constructed annually by 2027 in over 101 countries as part of their military operations. So far, there are around 50 development programs, but only a handful of nations have seen, air quotes, lethal results.

Top players include world powers such as the US, China, Russia, EU, and UK, but surprisingly also Australia, Japan, and South Korea, which we will discuss shortly.

The dark horse in the race to build military drones is Turkey, whose new TB2 Bayraktar has performed very well in recent conflicts in the region.

The Boeing ATS, also referred to as Loyal Wingman, epitomizes a modern UAV, focusing on stealth and multi-functionality.

Significantly, it serves as a force multiplier aircraft that can fly alongside manned aircraft and can also be used for autonomous missions. Importantly, artificial intelligence or AI is central to the design philosophy and various capabilities of Boeing’s Loyal Wingman.

A key technical feature of this military drone is its modular mission package system, where its AI is housed in its nose.

The craft’s nose can be quickly and easily removed and replaced with another nose containing a different set of equipment or armament guidance systems, while the spy tech or weapons are loaded in the internal bay. This means the Loyal Wingman can be rapidly deployed for a variety of different and very specific missions, which can include combat, reconnaissance, and, most specific to this class of UAV, electronic warfare.

The nose, by the way, is 2.5 meters or 8.2 feet long and offers a storage volume of more than 1.5 meters or 5 feet cubed.

But what weapons will it carry? Unfortunately, Boeing has been tight-lipped, leaving us with only speculation. We know that air-to-air missions might be equipped with Aim-9s for bomber escorts and interceptions, and we wouldn’t rule out tactical ground strikes.

Furthermore, another advantage is that its fuselage is made of composite materials that employ an advanced resin-infusion process, resulting in a lighter and more durable craft.

The drone has an integrated on-board sensor package that should more than adequately support its three core

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