The US Air Force (USAF) has completed the first flight test of the long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle, XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, US.
Developed by the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in collaboration with Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems, the XQ-58A has the ability to fly alongside crewed aircraft in combat. The vehicle is based on the ‘loyal wingman’ concept.
According to Reuters, Kratos invested $30m on the XQ-58A Valkyrie, which is designed to operate without a runway. The AFRL also invested in the drone within its low-cost attritable aircraft technology (LCAAT) portfolio.
LCAAT focuses on designing and building unmanned air systems (UAS) faster by developing improved design tools. The initiative also uses commercial manufacturing processes to reduce time and cost.
AFRL XQ-58A programme manager Doug Szczublewski said: “XQ-58A is the first example of a class of UAV that is defined by low procurement and operating costs while providing game-changing combat capability.”
The 76-minute test flight is the first of five planned flights that will be carried out in two phases. The aircraft will be tested on various factors, including system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems.
The 30ft-long Valkyrie is a highly manoeuvrable, stealthy UAS that has the capability to carry and deploy weapons or surveillance systems. It has a range of more than 3,000nm and can fly at near-supersonic speeds.
Companies and militaries are increasingly focusing on investing in unmanned systems as they intend to develop cost-effective models to bolster their combat capabilities.
In July 2016, AFRL awarded a contract to Kratos for the low-cost attritable strike UAS demonstration (LCASD).
Under this contract, the company is required to design, develop, deliver, demonstrate and test a technical baseline for a high-speed, long-range, low-cost, limited life-strike UAS.