The countdown has begun at Wellcamp aerospace and defence precinct in Queensland after Wagner Corporation landed a game-changing deal with US-based aviation giant Boeing.
But the timing for the creation of the visionary hub is not being counted in days, weeks or even months.
“Ultimately, it’s a work in progress for the next 40 years,” Wagner Corporation chairman, John Wagner, told The Urban Developer.
The development’s first stage alone encompasses 20 hectares at Toowoomba’s Wellcamp Airport with the overall aim of creating a global epicentre of aerospace and defence development and advanced manufacturing.
“We are already in discussions with a number of aerospace companies, who want to be with like-minded people, about potentially relocating ... everyone from rocket and other manufacturers to research and development and prototype labs,” Wagner said.
The first big step has been securing Boeing as the precinct’s foundation and anchor tenant with plans for a world leading manufacturing facility for the first military combat aircraft designed, developed and built in Australia in half a century.
The state-of-the-art Boeing primary final assembly facility for its cutting-edge Loyal Wingman defence drone will be the first of its kind for the company outside of North America.
It is estimated the project could generate up to $1 billion for the Queensland economy over the next 10 years.
Also known as the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, the Loyal Wingman unmanned military combat aircraft made its first flight in February.
Using artificial intelligence, it is designed to operate as a team to extend the capabilities of crewed and un-crewed aircraft.
Wagner said the Boeing facility was still in the design phase but civil works would begin in about six weeks and it was hoped building construction would commence in March next year.
“It will all come together as a world class facility,” he said. “The whole campus-style precinct will be a massive game-changer and a huge drawcard for other innovative hi-tech companies.”
Boeing Defence Australia vice president Scott Carpendale said the selection of Wellcamp Airport as its preferred location reflected the company’s global focus and support for Australia’s sovereign defence capability growth, supply chain and export opportunities.
“We are confident in the future production outlook for this world-class, innovative aircraft,” Carpendale said.
“We’re thinking long-term about this investment, which could assist Australia to gain future work share in other global defence and aerospace opportunities, in addition to the Loyal Wingman assembly.
“The Wellcamp Aerospace and Defence Precinct location is attractive due to its access to a flight line, clear flying days, commercial flight access from major cities and ability to support the rapid pace at which the Airpower Teaming System program is growing.”
He said sustainable aerospace also was a critical focus for Boeing, and Wagner Corporation’s use of sustainable construction methods supports its vision to create a leading sustainable aerospace manufacturing facility from the ground up, including renewable technologies and human-centric design.
The project is expected to create about 300 jobs during construction and 70 operational jobs on completion.
“This has the potential to greatly improve our state’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,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said at this week’s announcement.
Wagner said the idea for the Wellcamp aerospace and defence precinct was just something he “dreamt up one day” and added to the company’s ever-growing development list.
That list currently includes Wellcamp Airport, which he says is now “coming of age”, as well as a 1000-bed quarantine facility that is “full steam ahead” and a planned $230 million Wellcamp Entertainment Precinct incorporating motorsport, driver-training and a 40,000-person outdoor amphitheatre.
“Over and above all that we’ve got the Inland Rail coming through and we’ve done the final design of a multi modal terminal, that’s road, rail and air ... there’s no shortage of ideas,” Wagner said.