Boeing has started construction of a facility in Australia’s Queensland state to produce the MQ-28 Ghost Bat unmanned air vehicle.

The site is located in the town of Toowoomba, which lies to the west of Brisbane, and will be operational within three years, says Boeing Australia.


Source: Boeing Defence Australia

An artist’s impression of Boeing’s MQ-28 production facility in Toowoomba, Australia

“Boeing Australia is investing to bring this innovative, uncrewed capability to market in the timeframe that supports our customers’ future needs,” says Boeing Defence Australia managing director Amy List.

“The MQ-28 is designed to transform air combat and provide affordable mass for Australia and our allies.”

The MQ-28, which sees Boeing partnered with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), is the first aircraft developed in Australia since the Second World War.

Boeing says the 9,000sq m (97,000sq ft) facility – the company’s first final assembly facility outside of North America – will bring Queensland skills in areas such as advanced composites manufacturing and robotics.

In February, Australia’s Department of Defence told FlightGlobal that eight examples of the aircraft have been delivered so far.

That month, Canberra provided funding for three additional MQ-28 Block 2 aircraft.

Canberra’s order for the three extra aircraft followed news in January that Boeing, which has at least one MQ-28 in the USA, was one of the companies selected for the US Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft programme.

Australia’s Defence Strategic Review document in April 2023 highlighted the importance of the MQ-28, envisaged as operating as a “loyal wingman” alongside RAAF platforms such as the Lockheed Martin F-35A and Boeing E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft.

One objective for the programme, following a demonstration phase in 2025, will be the ability to produce MQ-28s at 10% of the cost of an aircraft like the F-35A.

The 2025 studies, which Australia’s minister for defence industry Pat Conroy bills as a “critical capability demonstration”, will allow the RAAF to evaluate MQ-28 Block 2s with in cooperation with manned assets.