• Article
  • 14 May 2024
Pete BurdenPhoto
Pete Burden

Boeing’s New Drone Factory Marks Important Shift for Australian Market

MQ 28 Ghost Bat (2) + Listing Image

Image Courtesy Boeing. 

In late March, Boeing announced it had begun construction on a new drone facility in Queensland, Australia. The MQ-28 Ghost Bat drone is an important addition to Australia’s defence industry, as is its domestic production.


Below, we’ll discuss the drone’s specifics as well as its role in the Australian defence sector and the industry as a whole.

What is the Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bat?

The Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bat is a loyal wingman unmanned aerial drone. Its role is to fly alongside manned aircraft to provide reconnaissance and combat support. One of its most interesting features is the modular mission package system contained in the drone’s nose.

In short, the nose can be switched out for various roles, including recon, combat, and electronic warfare. This gives it flexibility in the field and drastically reduces production costs, thanks to it essentially being a 3-in-1 drone.

The MQ-28 was developed by Boeing alongside the Royal Australian Air Force as a force multiplier aircraft. It’ll incorporate AI into its design and will have the potential for space-based capabilities. It made its first flight back in February 2021 and Boeing plans to introduce it to the market in 2024 or 2025. For the foreseeable future, it’ll remain a sovereign programme in Australia.

Why is the Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bat so Important?

Back in 2019, Boeing announced it was unsure whether production would happen in Australia or the US, depending on market conditions. However, it has since confirmed production will happen in Australia, specifically in its new Queensland facility built for this exact purpose.

The factory will sit on a 9,000 square metre plot and is being built with renewable and sustainable technologies at the forefront. While the factory will only make MQ-28 drones, it’ll provide capabilities in the area for advanced composite production and robotics as well as digital roles.

This is important for several reasons. First, the Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bat is the first combat aircraft that has been designed and built in Australia for more than 50 years. Along with the domestic jobs this will provide, Australia’s defence ministry hopes production will boost the local defence sector, which currently contains 55 companies.

Similarly, there are hopes that producing the Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bat in Australia will prompt further investment in domestic UAV technology. GlobalData’s 2023 report found that, in the next decade, Australia will spend $5.1 billion on UAV procurement. Shifting this spending to investment in domestic companies will have clear economic benefits down the line.

Second is the growing role of unmanned drones in the defence industry. While this concept is nothing new, designing and building its own UAV will increase Australia’s presence in this sector and reduce its reliance on foreign purchases.

In fact, the US has already suggested its intention to purchase the MQ-28 as part of its next-generation Air Force plans. Considering the US is by far the biggest military spender in the world, this will be an important source of money for Australia if the deal goes ahead.

The Future of the MQ-28

The Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bat is by no means a novel concept. However, keeping its production in Australia is an important shift for the country, as it’ll hopefully have trickle-down impacts for several decades. The factory itself gives Boeing some important capabilities in the area, too, and helps to shift defence production away from the usual locations.