BAE Systems has unveiled its Australian-developed drone it says could be the Loyal Wingman for military helicopters.
The business said STRIX could be used for a variety of missions, including air-to-ground strikes against hostile targets or surveillance.
Loyal Wingman is the old project name for the Boeing drone that will autonomously fly alongside crewed fighter jets, such as the F-35.
BAE Systems Australia chief executive officer Ben Hudson said at the official unveiling of the platform at Avalon 2023, “STRIX leverages existing, proven technologies to provide an affordable and cost-effective capability that is mission-configurable and upgradable in response to emerging technologies or threats.”
The airframe is designed to carry up to a 160-kilogram payload over 800 kilometres, with STRIX being capable of operating in high-risk environments.
The platform incorporates a collapsed footprint of 2.6m x 4.5m and could be easily transported in a standard shipping container.
Meanwhile, its VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) capability means STRIX could be used without relying on an airfield, with the platform also capable of operating from a helicopter to expand the mission set and protect aircrew in high-threat environments.
“STRIX could be ready for operational service as soon as 2026 and work is already underway on a STRIX prototype. We’re excited that this is the first UAS of its kind to be developed in Australia and look forward to working with partners across the country to deliver this capability to customers,” Hudson added.
BAE partnered with Perth-based Innovaero, with the industry collaboration combining BAE Systems’ global expertise in autonomous platforms and its vehicle management system (VMS) technology with Innovaero’s knowledge of aeronautical product design and manufacture in the Australian market.
STRIX will look to increase Australian sovereign capability by leveraging domestic expertise, such as Innovaero’s aircraft concept design and rapid prototyping.
There will also be opportunities for wider Australian small and medium-sized enterprises and academia to get involved in the development, delivery, and flight test of the prototype.
STRIX will have the capacity to accommodate a range of munition types, including those currently in service with the Australian Defence Force.
BAE Systems Australia will also deliver a new low-cost precision-guided munition, known as RAZER, which could be integrated onto the platform to complement STRIX’s strike capability.