XQ-58A Valkyrie completes first payload release test

During the sixth flight test of the Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie, the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) successfully completed the first payload release from the unmanned combat air vehicle’s (UCAV’s) internal weapons bay.

This latest test occurred at the US Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona on March 26 but was announced by the US Air Force (USAF) on April 5. The sixth flight test demonstrated the platform’s ability to launch an Area-I ALTIUS-600 small, unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) from its internal weapons bay. The AFRL conducted the sortie in partnership with Kratos and Area-I.

Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie - serial 15-8003 - successfully completed the first payload release of an Altius-600 sUAS during the type's sixth flight test at the US Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona on March 26, 2021. USAF

The AFRL, in collaboration with Kratos and Area-I, designed and fabricated the sUAS carriage for the XQ-58A’s internal weapons bay, as well as developing the software to enable the release to take place. Following the successful release of the ALTIUS-600 sUAS, the Valkyrie further expanded its operational envelope by completing additional test points.

The USAF quoted Alyson Turri, the demonstration’s programme manager, as saying: “This is the sixth flight of the Valkyrie and the first time the payload bay doors have been opened in flight. In addition to this first sUAS separation demonstration, the XQ-58A flew higher and faster than previous flights.”

Kratos’ XQ-58A Valkyrie is described to be a stealthy UCAV, with its design reflecting that. The single engine platform follows a blended trapezoidal fuselage with a chined edge and features a V-shaped tail, along with an S-shaped air intake – which are commonly associated design aspects of low observable aircraft.

The platform has been produced for the AFRL under the Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator (LCASD) programme, which falls under the laboratory’s wider Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) portfolio. Designed to serve as a ‘Loyal Wingman’ platform, the XQ-58A is a low-cost, attritable, high subsonic UCAV that is capable of conducting long-range strike/escort missions in support of manned aircraft and ground forces, while fulfilling additional surveillance and reconnaissance missions.