MQ-28 Ghost Bat
Boeing MQ-28A Ghost Bat during a high-speed taxi test
Role Unmanned combat aerial vehicle
National origin Australia
First flight 27 February 2021[1][2]
Introduction 2024-25 (planned)
Status Under development / testing
Primary user Royal Australian Air Force
Number built 5[3][4]

The Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bat, previously known as the Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS), is a Loyal Wingman class stealth, multirole, unmanned combat aerial vehicle in development by Boeing Australia for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). It is designed as a force multiplier aircraft capable of flying alongside crewed aircraft for support as part of an integrated system including space-based capabilities,[4] and performing autonomous missions independently using artificial intelligence.[5]

Design and development

The Ghost Bat is an uncrewed aerial vehicle incorporating artificial intelligence and utilising a modular mission package system in the nose of the aircraft. The entire nose section can be removed and quickly swapped for another with a different payload for various missions including combat, force reconnaissance and electronic warfare.[6] Developed under Air Force Minor Program DEF 6014, one role will be to utilise the Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) concept to support and protect manned Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft, such as the F-35A, F/A-18F, E-7A, and KC-30A while they conduct operations.[7]

The UAV is designed to act as a "loyal wingman" that is controlled by a parent aircraft to accomplish tasks such as scouting or absorbing enemy fire if attacked, as well as operating independently.[8][9] It has a 2000-mile ferry range or 900-mile combat radius.[10] The UAV also has a jet engine which allows it to fly in the high subsonic flight regime and keep up with manned fighters.[10] Boeing has said it has 'fighter-like' maneuverability.[10] The MQ-28A prototype did not use any radiation-absorbent material (RAM) coating and instead relied on its shape to reduce its radar cross section (RCS).[10] The aircraft wing is Boeing's largest resin-infused single composite component, leveraging proven technology from Boeing 787 wing's trailing edge.[11] Three key manufacuring innovations were incorporated in the areas of robotic drill and fill, shimless assembly, and full-size determinant assembly.[11]

The aircraft is the first combat aircraft designed and developed in Australia in over half a century.[12] In February 2019, Boeing said that it will "depend on the market" whether the aircraft is manufactured in Queensland or the US.[8] Ghost Bat will remain a sovereign Australian program, with aircraft only being produced in Australia and the lead partner on the program being the RAAF.[4] On 21 September 2021, Boeing Australia unveiled the launch of a new manufacturing facility for its Loyal Wingman uncrewed aircraft at Wellcamp Airport in Toowoomba, Queensland.[13] On 4 November 2021, Boeing Australia announced the Melbourne facility had already commenced construction of its fifth aircraft whilst the new Toowoomba facility is under construction.[11] On 26 March 2024, Boeing Australia announced the start of construction on a 9000 square-meter facility to support construction of the Ghost Bat.[14]

The RAAF initially planned to buy three Airpower Teaming System (ATS) systems, as part of the Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program (LWADP).[15] The three drones were built at an automated production line in Melbourne, Victoria, a proof of concept for full-scale production.[6] [16]The order was increased to six with an A$115 million contract days after the first flight.[17] As of 9 May 2023, the Australian government confirmed its commitment to funding 10 aircraft for the RAAF,[4] not including three prototypes that will not be owned by the government or operated by the RAAF, taking the government’s total investment in the Loyal Wingman program to over A$600 million. The uncrewed platforms are scheduled to enter service with the RAAF in 2024-25.[18]

Testing and other possible uses

After a full-scale mock-up was revealed at the 2019 Avalon Airshow, the first real aircraft achieved a power-on of its systems in March 2020, and was rolled out in May 2020 by Boeing Australia with the release of images showing a detailed prototype of the aircraft and a video to illustrate the drone's operational abilities. In May 2022, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said "This is a truly historic moment for our country and for Australian defence innovation. The Loyal Wingman will be pivotal to exploring the critical capabilities our Air Force needs to protect our nation and its allies into the future."[19]

Boeing announced it powered up the engine of its first Airpower Teaming System (ATS) uncrewed aircraft for the first time in September 2020. The engine test was part of ground testing to prepare for its first flight before the end of 2020.[20]

The Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS) prototype moved under its own power for the first time in October 2020, conducting low-speed taxi tests at RAAF Base Amberley.[21] The Boeing Airpower Teaming System later performed a high-speed taxi test at an unnamed remote location in December 2020.[22]

The first test flight of the prototype occurred at RAAF Base Woomera on 27 February 2021.[1][2]

Two more test flights occurred at RAAF Woomera Range Complex sometime in early November 2021 where a prototype successfully raised and engaged its landing gear while a second prototype completed its first test flight.[23]

An official naming ceremony was held at RAAF Base Amberley on 21 March 2022 to announce the Loyal Wingman will be known as the MQ-28A Ghost Bat in RAAF service, named after an Australian bat found in northern parts of the Australian continent. The ghost bat is an Australian native mammal known for teaming together in a pack to detect and hunt, which reflects the unique characteristics of the aircraft’s sensors and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance abilities.[24]

In August 2022, it was revealed by United States Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall that preliminary discussions were being held about purchasing the MQ-28 for US service.[25][26] The 2023 Defence budget revealed that a Combat Collaborative Aircraft Project Arrangement for greater collaboration on the MQ-28 had been signed with the US in line with the recommendations made in the Defence Strategic Review.[4]

In February 2024 the Australian Government announced a further A$400 million in funding for three more aircraft, built to the new "Block 2" standard.[27][28] The announced improvements included developments to the sensors, mission payloads, integrated combat system and the autonomous systems.[29]


Data from Air International[30]

General characteristics


See also


  1. ^ a b Waldron, Greg (2 March 2021). "Australian 'loyal wingman' to form basis of Boeing Skyborg bid". FlightGlobal. Archived from the original on 2 March 2021. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Boeing Loyal Wingman Uncrewed Aircraft Completes First Flight". Boeing. 1 March 2021. Archived from the original on 23 November 2023. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
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  13. ^ Dowling, Hannah (22 September 2021). "World First: Wellcamp to host Loyal Wingman manufacturing facility". Australian Aviation. Archived from the original on 22 September 2021.
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  32. ^ [bare URL]