Boeing announced the name of its newest combat drone on Monday: the MQ-28A Ghost Bat. The drone, which is being produced in Australia, utilizes artificial intelligence and is part of what was previously known as the Loyal Wingman project—an initiative to give fighter pilots an uncrewed partner in the sky.
“The introduction of the new popular name is a rare and special moment in aviation history for our RAAF partners and industry team of over 35 Australian suppliers,” Glen Ferguson, director at Australia’s Boeing Airpower Teaming System, said in a statement on Boeing’s website.
“Selecting the Ghost Bat, an Australian native mammal known for teaming together in a pack to detect and hunt, reflects the unique characteristics of the aircraft’s sensors and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance abilities, and is a fitting name for this pioneering capability,” Ferguson said.
This new generation of drones is intended to fly alongside crewed fighter jets and assist in everything from jamming radar to conducting surveillance to firing on targets.
The Ghost Bat is the first combat aircraft to be manufactured in Australia in over 50 years. Australian politicians have grown more hawkish in recent years as they confront an increasingly hostile China.
Australian leaders’ more aggressive posture has translated into larger investment in the defense industry. That means big money for U.S.-based companies like Boeing, which generated about $62 billion in revenue last year.
“As air warfare grows more complex and more sophisticated, remotely piloted aircraft and other uncrewed platforms are becoming increasingly vital assets for modern militaries,” Australian Defense Minister Dutton said in a statement published Monday.
Dutton unveiled the new name during a ceremony at RAAF Base Amberley in the state of Queensland, where the politician hinted at what makes the Ghost Bat so potentially useful in war.
“This new capability allows us to introduce more mass into the battlespace. An adversarial aircraft would not only have to contend with our crewed capability, but also numbers of uncrewed aircraft such as the MQ-28A Ghost Bat,” Dutton said.
“The three test flight series have been successful and with a range of 3,700 kilometers, it complements our deterrence objective to hold a potential adversary’s forces and infrastructure at risk from a greater distance.”
And while Dutton’s been pushing hard in Australia for more military projects in the country, he may not have much time left to influence the direction of Australia’s drones. The conservative government down under is up for re-election in May, and Dutton’s Liberal Party is not doing well so far in the polls.