The US Air Force has taken the wraps off its new stealth fighter drone.
It was developed in just over 2.5 years, from contract award to first flight – a milestone that took place March 5 at the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona.
The Air Force released footage from the unmanned XQ-58A Valkyrie’s inaugural flight this week, and says the demonstrator craft behaved ‘as expected.’
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The XQ-58 Valkyrie is a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle (UAV) developed by the Air Force Research Lab in partnership with Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems. During its inaugural flight, it was in the air for 76 minutes
WHAT IS A ‘LOYAL WINGMAN’ DRONE?
The ‘loyal wingman’ concept describes aircraft designed to provide unmanned aerial support to other, piloted planes such as the F-35A.
They can carry payload including weapons or surveillance tools, and are used for lower cost strike, surveillance, and electronic support in the skies.
The Air Force ultimately hopes these can work together with pilots and swarms of other unmanned craft.
Currently, the Air Force is developing the long-range XQ-58 Valkyrie in its latest ‘loyal wingman’ endeavor.
While the Air Force is often guarded about the progress of its emerging craft, flight enthusiasts were treated to a brief look at the new Valkyrie as it took its maiden voyage in the Arizona skies thanks to a 15-second clip shared on YouTube this week.
The XQ-58 Valkyrie is a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle (UAV) developed by the Air Force Research Lab in partnership with Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems.
During its inaugural flight, it was in the air for 76 minutes.
The combat drone will be put through a total of five planned test flights in its two phases of development.
This will help to evaluate and perfect system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems, the Air Force says.
XQ-58 was developed under the Air Force Research Lab’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) portfolio, which is working to create military craft at cheaper prices.
‘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,’ the Air Force said in a statement this month.
The new stealth craft came to fruition in less than three years.
‘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,’ Doug Szczublewski, AFRL’s XQ-58A Program Manager.
It’s hoped the craft will eventually be used for lower cost surveillance, strike, and electronic warfare support, according to The Drive.
It would operate as a so-called loyal-wingman, providing support to crewed aircraft.
XQ-58A has a range of more than 2,000 miles and can take off using rocket boosters, The Drive notes.