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Australian government reveals plans for fleet of combat drones

Staff Writer |
Australia's Defense Minister Christopher Pyne on Wednesday announced a 40 million Australian dollar (28.7 million U.S. dollar) investment in a fleet of unmanned drones.

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Pyne made the announcement at the Avalon aerospace trade show outside Melbourne while unveiling a prototype of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), currently known as "Loyal Wingman," which was developed by aerospace giant Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

It marks the first time a combat aircraft has been designed and developed in Australia in more than 50 years.

The drones are approximately the same size as traditional jet fighters and will be deployed to support Australia's Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) by providing surveillance and protection from hostile fire.

On the underside of the prototype is a payload capable of carrying sensors or electronic warfare equipment that could be adapted to carry deadly weapons.

Designed to fly several thousand kilometers, the drones, which are a significantly cheaper option than manned aircraft, will be primarily used to conduct electronic warfare and reconnaissance missions.

In a statement, Boeing said that the design could become part of an international program similar to the JSF, which has nine partner countries and even more customers.

The government did not provide a timeline for the project, but the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported that production could be underway by the mid-2020s if the design is approved.

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