Massive fighter-jet drone operated by tablet could soon be part of US Air Force
A fighter jet-sized drone built by Boeing could be a “fit” for the United States Air Force, according to Reuters, with the USAF reportedly in talks with the defense contractor about the aircrafts since mid-2022.
The Boeing MQ-28 is an “uncrewed aircraft using artificial intelligence” that is “designed to work as a smart team with existing military aircraft to complement and extend airborne missions.”
Boeing is looking to sell the drones, developed in Australia, to the USAF to be part of “collaborative combat aircraft” missions, otherwise known as “manned-unmanned teaming,” where fighter pilots control drones alongside their jets.
“We’re developing the MQ-28 to fit into a set of requirements that fit into that category of CCA and hopefully there is an intersection there,” Boeing defense, space, and security chief executive Ted Colbert said at the Australia International Airshow.
The craft is Australia’s first homegrown combat aircraft in over 50 years, but in 2022, USAF representatives said they were in “preliminary discussions” about buying the drones from Boeing.
U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall confirmed the talks at the time, saying that he is “talking to [his] Australian counterparts in general about the [Next Generation Air Dominance] family of systems and how they might be able to participate.”
Kendall also said the MQ-28 could serve as “a risk-reduction mechanism.”
The massive drones are included in the category that has been recently referred to as a “loyal wingman-type” of aircraft, meaning it could be operated remotely by pilots in a wing.
In September 2021, pilots completed a demonstration in which they were able to command “airborne assets while autonomously executing behaviors and missions that provide increased awareness and effectiveness to the warfighter.”
A pilot operated an Avenger drone via an app on a “tablet-like” device, with the demo lasting two hours.
The Avenger drone is generally the same size as the new MQ-28, at 44 feet and 38 feet long respectively.
Boeing’s Colbert said that there was “a lot of interest” in the MQ-28 from around the world, with the Australian Royal Airforce looking to put the drone into operation in 2024 or 2025. The unmanned vehicle would team up with manned aircraft such as the F-35A, according to outlet the Drive.