United Kingdom

Production set to start on high-speed unmanned drone designed to fly alongside fighter jets by RAF

Production of the RAF's new unmanned high-speed combat drone is set to begin in Northern Ireland in a £30million project.

Nicknamed the 'loyal wingman', the aircraft will be designed to fly alongside fighter jets, armed with surveillance and electronic warfare technology to provide a battle-winning advantage over hostile forces.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the three-year contract to design and manufacture a prototype will support more than 100 jobs in Northern Ireland. 

The loyal wingman will be the UK's first uncrewed platform able to target and shoot down enemy aircraft and survive against surface-to-air missiles, the MoD said.

Production of the RAF's new unmanned high-speed combat drone - the 'loyal wingman' is set to begin thanks to a £30 million Government investment: A visualisation of the loyal wingman

Nicknamed the 'loyal wingman', the aircraft will be designed to fly alongside fighter jets, armed with surveillance and electronic warfare technology to provide a battle-winning advantage over hostile forces. Pictured: A visualisation of the loyal wingman flying alongside a fighter jet

Spirit AeroSystems, in Belfast, has been selected to lead Team Mosquito in the next phase of the project.

The team will further develop the RAF's Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) concept, with a full-scale vehicle flight-test programme expected by the end of 2023.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said: 'This is fantastic news and underlines the distinct strengths in Northern Ireland's economy, through its advanced engineering and manufacturing capabilities.

'This ground-breaking project will involve significant investment which will not only support local employment, but also reinforce Northern Ireland's contribution to the security of our nation.'

The loyal wingman will be the UK's first uncrewed platform able to target and shoot down enemy aircraft and survive against surface-to-air missiles, the MoD said. Pictured: An MoD visualisation of the RAF's Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA)

Spirit AeroSystems (pictured), in Belfast, has been selected to lead Team Mosquito in the next phase of Project Mosquito

'This is a great win for the Northern Ireland defence industry and will showcase some of the most pioneering engineering work currently being undertaken in the UK,' UK Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin said.

'The £30 million project will accelerate the development of the UK's future air power by delivering cutting-edge uncrewed aircraft, maintaining our position as a world leader in emerging technologies.'

The director of Future Combat Air at the MoD, Richard Berthon, said: 'Project Mosquito is a vital element of our approach to Future Combat Air, rapidly bringing to life design, build and test skills for next generation combat air capabilities.

'Autonomous 'loyal wingman' aircraft create the opportunity to expand, diversify and rapidly upgrade Combat Air Forces in a cost-effective way, now and in the future.'

Boeing first unveiled the new autonomous fighter jet plane at an Australian air show in February 2019.

The aerospace giant said the new drone was particularly suited for long-distance surveillance missions that humans can't typically perform.

It may also be able to carry missiles or bombs at some point in the future.  

THE 'LOYAL WINGMAN' COMBAT DRONE

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