Sixth Test Flight Pushes Operating Envelope Further
The sixth test flight for the Kratos Defense & Security Solutions XQ-58A VALKYRIE UAS was conducted in conjunction with the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Area-I on 26 March, the company announced on 5 April. The test flight – the sixth such event in the programme – included the first release of a payload from the aircraft’s internal weapons bay.
“Successful operation of the internal weapons release system/function along with further aerodynamic envelope increases continues to assert the incredible capability and cost-per-performance value of the low-cost attritable XQ-58A VALKYRIE. Additionally, this unique and key mission function success adds an exclamation point to the 30-month development of the VALKYRIE system by the Kratos and AFRL team, which resulted in a pre-production system with substantial operational capability, not simply a proof-of-concept flight demonstrator,” asserted Steve Fendley, President of Kratos Unmanned Systems Division.
The test demonstrated the ability to launch an ALTIUS-600 small UAS (SUAS), using hardware and software developed by Kratos, Area-I and AFRL, designed and fabricated the SUAS carriage and developed software to enable release. “This is the sixth flight of the VALKYRIE and the first time the payload bay doors have been opened in flight,” explained Alyson Turri, Demonstration Programme Manager. “In addition to this first SUAS separation demonstration, the XQ-58A flew higher and faster than previous flights.”
VALKYRIE has been developed by Kratos Unmanned Systems Division, in partnership with AFRL, under the Low-Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator (LCASD) programme to develop a low-cost, multi-mission, runway-independent UAS, capable of long-range flights and high-subsonic speeds, intended to support a variety of defence applications. In addition to extreme survivability and adaptability, as part of the Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) portfolio, the aircraft is designed to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft.
In December 2020, Kratos received a $37.7 million (€31.5 million) contract to integrate, test, and deliver the XQ-58A VALKYRIE system. Commenting on the company’s avowed strategy of having ‘the right product at the right time and at the right price,’ Kratos CEO Eric DeMarco stated “This strategy is particularly timely based on the near-term budget realities and from a technology perspective ties to the present day near-peer threats from nation state adversaries. Kratos remains fully focused on the rapid development of affordable defense technology systems, on schedule and on budget for our customers.”