US Unveils its Most Advanced Stealth Drone

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Kratos Defense and Security Solutions revealed a rendering of its anticipated and highly advanced drone “Thanatos”.

Many countries are turning to more drone-based warfare, with the Ukrainian resistance being powered by low-cost drones made by the local industry, or Iran using suicide drones made entirely out of off-the-shelf parts.

The approach of the US is different, it is looking at drones as companions to its fighter jets as part of its Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) plans. The US is interested in highly advanced drones that can fly over long distances, hit intended targets, and then return to base, which would make them as advanced as fighter jets without human pilots.

The new Thanatos drone has been known as a concept to the public since 2019, but the newly released rendering is the first look at the design so far. Its design is not very different from other stealth drones, a tailless bird with a shovel nose design and a platypus-like edge extending over the exhaust.

According to Interesting Engineering, the drone’s features can provide clues as to what it is capable of- the deep chine line and recessed inlets are meant to help the drone stay off the radar, and the covered tail is designed to avoid being spotted on infrared, and the diamond-shaped wings offer lesser drag when the drone travels at supersonic speeds. Kratos has not yet revealed any information regarding the drone’s weapons capabilities.

The US Air Force, in addition to its NGAD plans, is also looking to procure 1,000 uncrewed aircraft that will accompany its advanced fighter jets as part of its Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, where a Thanatos would likely serve to carry air-to-air missiles for the fighters, carry capabilities of electronic warfare alongside B-21 Raiders, or even operate on its own.

The Thanatos may also be used with the US Navy, which reportedly has plans to induct advanced drones to coordinate and collaborate with other services, like the US Air Force.