The RAAF has completed the first test flight of an Australian-designed military drone; the Loyal Wingman. 

The Loyal Wingman was developed by US manufacturer Boeing in conjunction with the Defence Department and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). 

The plan is to send the system into battle alongside traditional crewed aircraft such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

It is only slightly smaller than a traditional jet fighter and has a range of almost 4,000km.

“As the first military combat aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years this is a great leap forward for Australian capability,” says head of Air Force Capability, Air Vice-Marshal Catherine Roberts AM.

“The Loyal Wingman project is a pathfinder for the integration of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence to create smart human-machine teams.”

The RAAF has also announced plans to invest an additional $115 million in government funding for the Loyal Wingman program, on top of $40 million already committed.

The RAAF wants to buy a set of drones that Boeing calls the Airpower Teaming System (ATS), as part of the Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program.

ATS machinery uses artificial intelligence to complement and extend missions flown by traditional combat aircraft.