Boeing just teased a grand unveiling for the Avalon Air Show in Australia, what could it be?



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In addition, Boeing could offer the T-X in a "TF" configuration, in which the aircraft is essentially configured as a light fighter, as well as an advanced jet trainer. The TX supporting other non-university driver training roles has always been discussed as part of the TX program and the rapid migration from Boeing's design to a light hunter / trainer configuration is something we have posed since Boeing won the contract. Boeing is now openly discussing the production of a version of the T-X for light hunting for export.

Such a configuration provides not only a more advanced advanced coach, but it can also assume low-end tactical roles, such as close air support, or even air sovereignty missions, to some extent.

The only thing that does not boil down here is that the images we see in the video are not perfectly aligned with Boeing's T-X design. It is the same, but the tails have a slightly different configuration and rudder shape and the indicated attack edge extension is not found on the TX as we know it today. . These could simply be a product of artistic license or even a more representative T-X design of production, than Boeing has not yet shown to the public. It would not be unheard of. Often, technical demonstration aircraft or technology demonstrators may look remarkably less refined in their production configuration, although there is no indication that this would be the case for the two Boeing T-X aircraft currently flying.

Another possibility is that it is an unassociated unmanned aircraft. In particular, one that can be used either as a 5th generation air target (5GAT) or as an unmanned aerial combat vehicle, probably designed for high performance and to serve as a "loyal winger".

In fact, the features presented are similar to the design of the 5GAT that the Pentagon is developing. This craft is designed to work as an affordable 5th generation hunter replacement. The one who is capable of transonic speed and representative of the threat, but also relatively simple to manufacture and low cost. 5GAT is supposed to be used to train pilots and radar operators on land and at sea.

The gear will also be used for destructive tests of high-end real shot. Currently, the QF-16 Large Scale Air Target (FSAT) can only provide a 4th generation threat representation. With foreign opponents putting in service fighters slightly observable, this is not enough anymore.

The recently published 2018 DOT & E report includes 5GAT and its evolution to operational capability, indicating:

"DOT & E is investigating ways to develop a large-scale air target to represent the characteristics of fifth-generation threat aircraft to properly evaluate the performance of current and future US air defense weapons systems. The study works of 5GAT started in 2006 and examined the design and manufacture of a dedicated 5GAT.The 5GAT team – composed of Air Force experts and Navy, retired Skunk Works engineers and industry experts – completed the preliminary design in 2016. The government's comprehensive design includes the external molding line of the company. aircraft, internal structures, load analysis, propulsion and subsystems.

The DOD provided additional funding during Exercise 18-19 to complete the final design, tooling, fabrication and combat tests (Exercise 19) and to build a second prototype. The 5GAT effort is currently to build the first demonstration prototype, including in-flight propulsion, system integration and flight simulation / verification activities. The team built a full-size wing representing the flight that will be used for structural load tests and a system integration lab, as well as a large-scale test article for radar cross-section testing. The prototyping effort will provide alternative cost – based design and manufacturing approaches for future air vehicle acquisition programs, as well as verified cost data for the design / development of aircraft. fully composite aircraft, alternative approaches to innovative management tools and applications.

The 5GAT effort can also be used to facilitate the design / development, planning and investment of weapons systems, as well as future analysis of alternative activities. It also aims to demonstrate reduced signature, basic aerodynamic performance, alternative cost models for aircraft development and special mission systems. "

Kratos Defense and Security Solutions and 5-D Systems both acknowledged their involvement in the Pentagon's 5GAT program.

It is clear that Australia would be interested in this ability to train its aircrew and its air defense system operators, including those at sea, to defend against stealth aircraft with high performance, especially as China currently has two stealth fighters in flight, and the most advanced of which is operational. China is also very active in the development of stealthless UAVs. At the same time, Australia has made considerable efforts to significantly increase its air combat capabilities. This includes the purchase of high-end electronic warplanes, which gives them a capability in this space only comparable to that of the United States.

In fact, a similar 5GAT aircraft concept that can carry even a small payload starts to merge with an attractive unmanned aerial combat vehicle concept (possibly disposable / inexpensive). This is another possibility that the United States is working on through a number of initiatives, including Kratos Defense's X-58 drone, which you can read here.

An unmanned combat air vehicle, capable of semi-autonomous missions and able to play the role of a loyal winger, where it is "attached" to a nearby equipped platform via data links, makes perfect sense for Australia as this would increase their air combat capabilities without having to buy other expensive fighters or train new crews. It would also make all their fighting forces easier to survive and able to adapt to hostile threats on the fly. In addition, it would also increase the store capacity of their fighter frames, sensor diversity, range. The drones themselves can also be networked into a swarm, giving them a greater capacity than the sum of their components.

These concepts can manifest themselves in separate aircraft, or potentially combined in a single cell, with some compromises. Nevertheless, they should still cost less than an ultra-stealth, high-end, flying-wing UAV, designed for semi-autonomous or even autonomous operations located deep within enemy territory.

It is also possible to use a "combat aircraft" drone, but because of the costs and investments already made by Australia in its growing fleet of F-35s, this seems dubious at the moment. In addition, high kinetic performance would mean sacrificing stealth and range, which makes little sense. And we know from the characteristics that Boeing has shown that this aircraft is designed for speed and maneuverability similar to those of fighter jets, and not for extreme stealth and long range.

Still, the possibility that Australia wants to have some kind of advanced drone should not surprise. The United Kingdom has just announced that it is planning to set up similar capabilities in the short term.

Nevertheless, we know of no information that Boeing is currently working on a type of unmanned system corresponding to any of these descriptions at this time. It would be amazing that they are not working on a high performance faithful drone, at least from a conceptual point of view.

But again, we have to say that these are just assumptions based on the limited information we have right now. Maybe it could become something else.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.

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