XQ-58 Valkyrie
The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator on its inaugural flight, 5 March 2019 at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona
Role Unmanned combat aerial vehicle
National origin United States
Manufacturer Kratos Defense & Security Solutions
First flight 5 March 2019
Status In development
Primary users United States Air Force
United States Marine Corps

The Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie is an experimental stealthy unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) designed and built by Kratos Defense & Security Solutions for the United States Air Force's Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator (LCASD) program, under the USAF Research Laboratory's Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) project portfolio. It was initially designated the XQ-222. The Valkyrie completed its first flight on 5 March 2019 at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.[1]

Development and design

A XQ-58 Valkyrie deploys an Altius-600 unmanned aircraft system

The XQ-58 Valkyrie fell within the USAF Research Laboratory's Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) portfolio, whose objectives included designing and building unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) faster, by developing better design tools and maturing and using commercial manufacturing processes to reduce production time and cost.[1] The LCAAT was to escort the F-22 or F-35 during combat missions and to deploy weapons or surveillance systems.[2][3] The LCAAT was eventually turned into the Off-Board Sensing Station (OBSS) program, which Kratos was awarded a contract for in 2021 but lost out to General Atomics in 2023, which developed the XQ-67A.[4][5] The USAF determined the XQ-58 airframe was too small to meet the requirements of the Collaborative combat aircraft program.[6]

The XQ-58 is designed to act as a loyal wingman that is controlled by a parent aircraft to accomplish tasks such as scouting, defensive fire, or absorbing enemy fire.[7] It features stealth technology with a trapezoidal fuselage with a chined edge, V-tail, and an S-shaped air intake.[3] The XQ-58 can operate as part of a swarm of drones, with or without direct pilot control. The XQ-58 can make conventional take-offs and landings or be launched from "nondescript launch modules", such as support ships, shipping containers, and semi-trailer trucks.[8][9]

Kratos officials have said the company could produce 250 to 500 Valkyries per year.[10] It can be produced at a unit cost of $4 million at an annual production rate of 50 aircraft, and possibly for less than $2 million if over 100 airframes are built per year.[11]

Operational history

A U.S. Marine Corps XQ-58A Valkyrie

The XQ-58's first flight took place on 5 March 2019, about two and a half years after Kratos received the contract. Five test flights were planned in two phases to evaluate system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems.[1]

On 23 July 2020, the Air Force gave contracts to Kratos, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and General Atomics to compete for the Skyborg program, an effort to field an unmanned wingman for manned fighters, at a price that makes it somewhat expendable.[12][13][14][15] Northrop was eliminated in December 2020. Kratos, Boeing, and General Atomics delivered their entries by May 2021 for flight tests in July 2021.[16][17]

In March 2021, the XQ-58A completed its sixth test flight, opening the doors of its internal weapons bay for the first time and releasing a 27 lb (12 kg) Area-I Altius-600 small unmanned aircraft system (UAS).[18][19][20]

In August 2023, a report with pictures[21] showed the XQ-58A in formation with an F-15E Strike Eagle from the 96th Test Wing’s 40th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

In December 2022, the United States Marine Corps ordered two XQ-58s for testing under the Marine Corps Penetrating Affordable Autonomous Collaborative Killer – Portfolio (PAACK-P) program, and conducted first test flights at Eglin Air Force Base in October 2023. In January 2023 the United States Navy ordered two XQ-58s for tests similar to those being undertaken by the Marines.[22]

On 2 April 2024, Kratos made a press release concerning an XQ-58 test with electronic warfare equipment, where it also mentioned the MQ-58B model.[23][24] The MQ-58B, which is intended to fulfill the role of suppression of enemy air defenses, or SEAD, is one of at least five variants of the XQ-58 under development by Kratos. This news comes alongside an announcement that the future variants of the Valkyrie will include underwing hardpoints for munitions, where a rendering of an XQ-58 was shown with two underwing hardpoints, each carrying an AIM-120 AMRAAM.[25]

Variants

XQ-58A

Original prototype variant being tested with the branches of the U.S. Military.

MQ-58B

An electronic attack version intended for production and service currently under development for the United States Marine Corps. It is intended for use in the SEAD role as a collaborative combat aircraft, to be operated alongside USMC F-35s.[23]

Operators

 United States

Specifications

The second XQ-58 Valkyrie taking off from Laguna Army Airfield.

Data from Kratos Defense Data sheet [26]

General characteristics

Performance

Armament

See also

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists

References

  1. ^ a b c "XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator completes inaugural flight". Wright Patterson AFB. 6 March 2019. Archived from the original on 25 September 2023. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Kratos to launch XQ-222 Valkyrie, UTAP-22 Mako at Paris Air Show 2017". Airforce Technology. 15 June 2017. Archived from the original on 9 April 2023.
  3. ^ a b Rogoway, Tyler (7 February 2017). "More Details On Kratos' Optionally Expendable Air Combat Drones Emerge". The Drive. Archived from the original on 9 June 2023. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  4. ^ USAF Logs First Flight of General Atomics’ Autonomous XQ-67 Drone. Air & Space Forces Magazine. 1 March 2024.
  5. ^ The XQ-67A Has A Secretive, Higher-Performance, Deadly Cousin. The War Zone. 29 February 2024.
  6. ^ CCA Contract Expected in Fall; First Versions Under Construction. Air & Space Forces Magazine. 6 July 2024.
  7. ^ Liptak, Andrew (22 May 2019). "'Skyborg' could let F-35 and F-15 fighter jets control their own companion drones". The Verge. Archived from the original on 7 January 2024. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  8. ^ Mizokami, Kyle (8 March 2020). "The Air Force's New Weapon Is…Shipping Containers?". Popular Mechanics. Archived from the original on 8 November 2023. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  9. ^ Trevithick, Joseph (16 October 2019). "This Containerized Launcher For The XQ-58A Valkyrie Combat Drone Could Be A Game Changer". The Drive. Archived from the original on 28 October 2023. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  10. ^ Losey, Stephen (18 July 2022). "Valkyrie success may push Skyborg drone concept to other programs, Kratos says". Defense News. Archived from the original on 9 January 2024. Retrieved 19 April 2023.
  11. ^ Newdick, Thomas; Rogoway, Tyler (4 May 2023). "Marine XQ-58 Valkyries Will Be Electronic Warfare Platforms For F-35s". The Drive. Archived from the original on 9 October 2023.
  12. ^ Insinna, Valerie (24 July 2020). "Four companies win contracts to build the Air Force's Skyborg drone". Defense News. Archived from the original on 18 August 2023. Retrieved 19 April 2023.
  13. ^ McCullough, Amy (24 July 2020). "4 Companies Move Forward in Skyborg Competition". Air & Space Forces Magazine. Archived from the original on 1 June 2023.
  14. ^ Hitchens, Theresa (24 July 2020). "Air Force Chooses Four Contractors To Compete For Skyborg Drone". Breaking Defense. Archived from the original on 9 April 2023. Retrieved 19 April 2023.
  15. ^ Hitchens, Theresa (28 July 2020). "AF Will Choose Skyborg Prototypes This Summer". Breaking Defense. Archived from the original on 9 April 2023. Retrieved 19 April 2023.
  16. ^ Insinna, Valerie (7 December 2020). "These 3 companies will build prototypes for the Air Force's Skyborg drone". Defense News. Archived from the original on 9 December 2020.
  17. ^ Cohen, Rachel S. (8 December 2020). "Three Companies Win New Skyborg Prototyping Contracts". Air & Space Forces Magazine. Archived from the original on 9 April 2023.
  18. ^ Insinna, Valerie (5 April 2021). "Valkyrie drone launches even smaller drone from inside payload bay". Defense News. Archived from the original on 18 April 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2023.
  19. ^ Donald, David (6 April 2021). "Valkyrie UAS Launches Small UAS from Weapons Bay". Aviation International News. Archived from the original on 6 April 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2023.
  20. ^ "AFRL successfully completes XQ-58A Valkyrie flight and payload release test". Air Recognition. Archived from the original on 6 April 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2023.
  21. ^ "XQ-58A Valkyrie unmanned combat vehicle completes formation flight". Defence Connect. 4 August 2023. Archived from the original on 7 August 2023.
  22. ^ a b Aaron-Matthew Lariosa (5 October 2023). "Marine Corps Experimental 'Loyal Wingman' Drone Makes First Flight". U.S. Naval Institute. Archived from the original on 16 October 2023. Retrieved 6 October 2023.
  23. ^ a b Trevithick, Joseph. "MQ-58B Electronic Attack-Enabled Version Of Valkyrie Drone For USMC Revealed". The Drive. Retrieved 3 April 2024.
  24. ^ "Kratos Demonstrates XQ-58A Electronic Warfare Capabilities for United States Marine Corps". Kratos Defense. Retrieved 3 April 2024.
  25. ^ Trevithink, Joseph. "XQ-58 Valkyrie Drone Family Has Grown To Five Variants". The Warzone.
  26. ^ "XQ-58A Valkyrie" (PDF). Kratos Defense. 25 January 2018. Retrieved 12 September 2022.