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Autonomous aircraft: Qld government, Boeing enter historic deal

Aerospace giant Boeing will, for the first time, design and develop its military aircraft, including unmanned planes, outside of the United States after signing a historic deal with the Queensland Government. The first aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years will mean hundreds of jobs, local supply opportunities…

Aerospace giant Boeing will, for the first time, design and develop its military aircraft, including unmanned planes, outside of the United States after signing a historic deal with the Queensland Government.

The first aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years will mean hundreds of jobs, local supply opportunities and defence industry stimulus as part of Queensland’s COVID-19 economic recovery.

On the day before the Queensland Government enters caretaker mode, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk described the partnership as “groundbreaking”.

“The creation of additional new aerospace capability could see unmanned defence aircraft produced here by the middle of the decade, with prototype testing and certification taking place before that,” she sad.

“Our investment in this advanced manufacturing project will provide critical skills for suppliers, academia and Boeing and culminate in Queensland becoming the primary final assembly facility for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.”

The first unmanned, autonomous aircraft prototype, called the Loyal Wingman, was unveiled with the Royal Australian Air Force earlier this year.

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick confirmed the Government had entered into a commercial-in-confidence agreement with Boeing. As a result, hundreds of jobs will be created both directly and indirectly.

Boeing employs 1700 staff in Queensland, and 400 local businesses are involved in the supply chain.

“Our Government’s longstanding commitment to advanced manufacturing is one of the reasons Queensland is already home to Boeing’s largest workforce outside the United States,” Mr Dick said.

Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific president Brendan Nelson said the partnership with the Queensland Government was a significant milestone.

“It’s one that will build cutting-edge skills to stimulate the innovation ecosystem in Queensland,” he said.

“This investment could unlock global defence and aerospace opportunities for Queensland to gain future workshare in other Boeing programs.”

The announcement coincided with another aerospace investment from the Queensland Government, which announced on Monday it would sign a $200 million deal with Bain Capital to secure Virgin Australia’s longevity, and its headquarters, in Queensland.

While no location has yet been confirmed for the manufacturing space, Ms Palaszczuk said it would most likely be in the southeast to complement the significant supply chain.

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