US Air Force Fast Tracking Funds For More Valkyrie Drones

Source: Image: Kratos/DoD

After Kratos Defense completed its second test demo, the US Air Force is looking to quickly secure funding to purchase more XQ-58A Valkyrie drones.

It looks like the Kratos Defense’s XQ-58A Valkyrie drone made quite an impression. Defense News reports that the aircraft’s second flight went so well that the US Air Force is considering the purchase of 20 to 30 more drones for additional experimentation.

Will Roper, the Air Force’s acquisition executive, told reporters at the Paris Air Show that the service is looking for prototyping funds that it can access so that it can quickly procure the drones planes.

What makes the XQ-5A Valkyrie attractive is that it’s characterized as an “attritable” drone – a word the military uses to describe assets that can be reused, but at the same time, are cheap enough for commanders to use more aggressively, leading to some losses. According to Kratos’ estimates, each XQ-5A Valkyrie costs about $2 million in a production run of 100 or more jets.

But a relatively low price tag isn’t its only benefit. The aircraft is capable of near supersonic speed, long endurance, and high maneuverability. It would be a powerful autonomous partner, flying alongside manned fighter jets.

Roper explained that a decision to start the program could be made by fiscal year 2021. Then it would only take three years for production and fielding the aircraft to begin.

“I am really pleased we’re getting strong buy-in, strong appetite at the pointy end for attritable systems by our pilots,” said Roper.

Interest in the Valkyrie grew after the drone reached a new milestone on June 11; completing its second flight demo at that the Yuma Proving Grounds. Kratos released a statement that said the aircraft completed unspecified objectives during the 71-minute test. Kratos is now looking to accelerate and increase near-term application opportunities for the system.

The XQ-5A Valkyrie was developed in a partnership between Kratos and The Air Force Research Laboratory through the Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator program. Its goal was to create a “Loyal Wingman”-style drone that would fly alongside fighter jets or other combat planes in manned and unmanned teams.

However, Roper has hinted that bigger plants might be in store for the Valkyrie and other attritable drones. In addition to adding sensors and weapons to Valkyrie, the Air Force wants to equip the drones with artificial intelligence so that they can learn alongside pilots and possibly respond independently to threats.

Roper calls the project “Skyborg,” and the Air Force is considering ways to incorporate these smart drones with manned F-35 and F-15EX fighters.

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Contributing Editor

A hardened survivor of the games press, Jeremy Parish has written, edited, and podcasted for AllGamers, Retronauts, USgamer, IGN, 1UP, Electronic Gaming Monthly, GameDaily.biz, and more.