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Air Force's Secretive XQ-58A Valkyrie Experimental Combat Drone Emerges After First Flight - 'loyal wingman'.jpg
Just a week after Boeing unveiled their export-centric 'loyal wingman' combat
drone concept, the Air Force Research Lab has announced that their own similar
endeavor, dubbed the XQ-58A Valkyrie, has made its first flight. It also posted
the very first image of the aircraft that has been developed under a veil of
secrecy over the last two and half years.
A press release from the USAF about the aircraft's first flight reads:
The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air
vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds,
Arizona. The Air Force Research Laboratory partnered with Kratos Unmanned Aerial
Systems to develop the XQ-58A.
This joint effort falls within the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Low Cost
Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) portfolio, which has the objective to
break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft. The
objectives of the LCAAT initiative include designing and building UAS faster by
developing better design tools, and maturing and leveraging commercial
manufacturing processes to reduce build time and cost.
Developed for runway independence, the aircraft behaved as expected and
completed 76 minutes of flight time. The time to first flight took a little over
2.5 years from contract award. The XQ-58A has a total of five planned test
flights in two phases with objectives that include evaluating system
functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems.
“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,” said Doug Szczublewski, AFRL’s XQ-58A Program Manager.
Beyond finally breaking cover as the USAF's 'attritable' unmanned combat air
vehicle concept, the XQ-58A is really the first Air Force UCAV concept we have
seen since all the momentum towards fielding any sort of this type of hugely
promising aircraft suddenly dematerialized the better part of a decade ago. The
XQ-58A very likely represents the low-end on the USAF's shadowy UCAV programs.
It is hoped that the XQ-58A will provide a low cost surveillance, strike, and
electronic warfare support capability that can be operated independently, as a
cooperative swarm, or as part of a so called 'loyal wingman' concept of
operations a group of Q-58s would work under the command of a nearby manned
combat aircraft. The stealthy drone, which supposedly has a range of well over
2,000 miles and is capable of carrying a pair of Small Diameter Bombs or
electronic warfare and surveillance gear, is also capable of being launched
using rocket boosters instead of relying on runways alone.
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