Australia pumps in more funding for Ghost Bat development


The Australian government has announced an A$399 million funding package intended to advance development of key systems for the Boeing MQ-28A Ghost Bat Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA). The funding also calls for construction of three new next-generation Block 2 aircraft.

Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy said on 9 February that the funding will enable further development on sensor and mission payloads, an integrated combat system and autonomous systems.

“But the majority of the funding will go into developing the unique Australian technology that allows the Ghost Bats to work together with each other and with crewed aircraft as one team to achieve their mission,” said Conroy.

The MQ-28A Ghost Bat is a joint development between Boeing Defence Australia and the Australian Department of Defence (DoD). The company has already been contracted to deliver 10 MQ-28A Block 1 aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

Conroy added that the Ghost Bat will enable the RAAF to create a “fighting team” with just a single crewed combat aircraft, with multiple Ghost Bats enhancing detection, identification, tracking, and even conduct combat operations.

“The latest agreement enables us to continue the developmental pathway of [the] MQ-28 to prove the MQ-28 systems, including validating the mission system, payloads, and operational requirements,” said Scott Carpendale, Vice President and Managing Director of Boeing Defence Australia.

The MQ-28A programme is expected to transition from the current technology development phase to the capability demonstration phase in 2025.

“We’ll be upgrading [the MQ-28As] often with new and advanced features,” added Conroy.

The Ghost Bat will have a range of more than 3,700 kilometres and has been designed to fly as a partner with crewed RAAF platforms. As a groundbreaking project, it enables the DoD to investigate critical factors such as the level of automation and autonomy, use of artificial intelligence, and human-machine teaming concepts that meet Australia’s legal and ethical obligations.

Around 55 Australian companies have contributed to the Ghost Bat programme, which is also the first military combat aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years.

Boeing is also establishing an MQ-28A production facility in Queensland.

by Jr Ng