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Australia to accelerate Ghost Bat development

The MQ-28A Ghost Bat unmanned aerial vehicle is pictured during a flight over Woomera, South Australia. (Australian Department of Defence)

Australia's Department of Defence (DoD) has been directed by the government to accelerate development of the Boeing Australia MQ-28A Ghost Bat unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), informed sources have disclosed to Janes.

According to the sources, the DoD has been told by Defence Minister Richard Marles to bring forward options “without delay” to develop the programme and support it in the production of Block 2 airframes.

The sovereign MQ-28A is being developed by Boeing Australia in partnership with the Australian government, and the acceleration of the programme was identified as a priority in the government's Defence Strategic Review (DSR), which was published in April. The first Ghost Bat aircraft made its maiden flight in February 2021.

Boeing Australia is already under contract to produce 10 MQ-28As for development and testing, four of which are reported to have flown.

Currently, development of the MQ-28A is continuing through systematic testing in both live and digital environments, including at the Woomera test range in South Australia.

During the current testing block, the MQ-28A has flown under the command of the ‘autonomous behaviour' laws of the mission system for the first time rather than being controlled from a Woomera ground control station, the sources reported.

Digital testing of the mission system continues, with more than 17,000 hours of testing conducted in a simulated combat environment. This is designed to assess the autonomous behaviours that will be refined in future live and virtual missions, the sources said.

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