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Quarantine site, freight hub, now combat aircraft factory - the rise and rise of Wellcamp

Business

Toowoomba has been chosen as the preferred site for the manufacture of an Australian designed and developed unmanned military combat aircraft, creating hundreds of jobs.

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Boeing has partnered with the Wagner Corporation and the Queensland Government to build its Loyal Wingman aircraft at the Wellcamp Aerospace and Defence Precinct – the world aviation giant’s first final assembly production facility outside of North America.

Boeing Defence Australia Vice President and Managing Director Scott Carpendale said the company was working towards having the facility built by the “middle of this decade”.

About 300 jobs will be created in the construction phase and another 70 in the initial operation of the assembly plant, with numbers expected to “expand significantly” as production rates increase.

The move is another feather in the cap for Wellcamp Airport, which Palaszczuk government has has already chosen as the site for a 1000-bed quarantine facility after the Commonwealth rejected the project.

The Wagner family had already established the airport as a growing freight hub, attracting five flights a week.

The Loyal Wingman made its first flight in February 2021 and is the first military combat aircraft designed, developed and manufactured in Australia in half a century.

Carpendale said Boeing had been working with the Federal Government on the design, test and certification phase of the aircraft’s development.

“We’re very confident we’ll expand that into the production phase,” he said.

“We don’t have a confirmed order now but … we’re very confident we’re going to get to that point. We do intend to export these globally.

“We have significant interest from a number of countries around the world. We’re very encouraged by the interest that we’re getting both locally and globally.

“We would hope that that it would be a significant volume of aircraft for a number of allied countries. It’s always been designed as a platform developed in Australia but designed very much for its exportability.”

Carpendale said the Loyal Wingman was expected to be deployed with crewed military aircraft, using artificial intelligence capabilities as part of a “potential force mix”.

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick said initial estimates suggested the new Boeing facility at Wellcamp would benefit the Queensland economy by $1 billion over the next decade.

“We would hope that would be a minimum,” he said. “We want this facility … to be an attractant for other investment, for other people who want to invest in advanced manufacturing, technology, aviation, aerospace. We want Queensland to be a leader in that space.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the facility had the potential to greatly improve Queensland’s advanced manufacturing capability and “help shape a workforce of Queenslanders with the skills to build some of the world’s most cutting-edge aircraft”.

“This is a massive coup for Queensland,” she said.

Dick and Palaszczuk both said the project had only been possible because of Queensland’s “strong health response” to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The reason we can make these announcements, the reason that we are attracting investment to Queensland and all the jobs that come with that is because Queensland is safe,” Dick said.

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