AUSTRALIA is building a $260million (£206m) fleet of “Ghost Bat” killer drones armed to protect fighter jets and carry out secret missions.
As part of the “Loyal Wingman” project, the lethal drones are being designed to carry huge payloads, defend warplanes, dodge air defence systems and conduct surveillance.
The MQ-28A Ghost Bat will be able to travel more than 3,700km and is designed to fly as a partner to manned aircraft, including F-35s, Super Hornets and P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance planes.
As well as offering fighter jet-like performance, the 12 metre-long drone would also be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
Nearly $400million (£320m) has already been spent on the top secret project that has built eight Ghost Bats.
It will be the first military combat aircraft designed and manufactured in Australia in over 50 years – with over 55 companies involved in the project.
The joint venture by Australia’s Air Force and Boeing Australia is heading into its next phase after successful prototype testing.
Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy said today: “I won’t go into details of the nature of that drone for security reasons.”
He explained that the Australian Army, Navy and Air Force had been testing a “range” of unmanned systems that can be armed.
“But I want to assure everyone in this country that we are spending lots of time working on drones,” he said.
He explained that the still-secret armed drone will perform “combat roles” at roughly 10 per cent of the cost of a manned aircraft.
Last year, a collaborative deal was reached with the United States, which will include the sharing of classified information and technology about the drones.
At least one Ghost Bat has been spotted in the US, as the Pentagon is interested in seeing how drones can pair with fighter jets, Breaking Defense reports.
The US Air Force is understood to want to build a fleet of 1,000 uncrewed collaborative combat aircraft (CCAs) that fly with warplanes into battle.
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine has emerged as a leading pioneer in drone production and design – helping them to win the so-called “War of the Drones”.
Their cheap and homemade kamikaze drones are helping to turn the tides of war, particularly in the Black Sea where they have helped wipe out a third of Russia’s fleet.
Ukraine’s “Sea Baby” drones, which can travel 500 miles and carry 600lb of explosive, are responsible for a spate of audacious attacks on Russian vessels in recent months – becoming Putin’s newest nightmare.
But it will get worse as Kyiv is building a fleet of newly-designed £355k 20ft Marichka “death drones” set to be unleashed on Russian targets soon.
Ukraine is also about to unveil its latest underwater robot drone that will help the nation work towards wiping out the last of Putin’s Black Sea fleet.