XQ-58A Valkyrie test flight

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator during its March 5, 2019, inaugural flight at the Yuma Proving Grounds.
US Air Force

A new long-range, high-subsonic unmanned demonstrator conducted its first flight at the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona on March 5. The XQ-58A Valkyrie has been developed by Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems and the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

The aircraft is part of the AFRL’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) portfolio and is a demonstrator for an unmanned combat air vehicle that can operate alongside manned platforms in the Loyal Wingman role. The AFRL’s XQ-58A programme manager Doug Szczublewski said the X-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 US Air Force says the LCAAT’s objective is, “to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft” by developing better design tools and using commercial manufacturing processes to reduce development time and cost.

The AFRL said the aircraft completed 76 minutes of flight and “behaved as expected”. The system will carry out five test flights in two phases with objectives that include evaluating system functionality, aerodynamic performance and launch and recovery systems. Kratos was awarded a contract in July 2016 to develop a LCAAT demonstrator. When the contract was announced, Kratos said the demonstrator would provide a configurable design capable of conducting various missions including defensive counter air manoeuvres, offensive counter air manoeuvres, suppression of enemy air defences and the destruction of enemy air defences.

Kratos said the stated AFRL goals for the LCAAT programme are to produce a system capable of a Mach 0.9 dash, 1,500 nautical miles (2,778km) combat radius with a 500lb (226kg) payload and an internal weapons capability, sized to carry and deliver at least two GBU-39 small diameter bombs.