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The XQ-58A Valkyrie, a jet-powered drone designed to fly alongside manned fighter jets and navigate autonomously, completed its first test flight in Arizona. The aircraft was in the air for 76 minutes.
The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator is a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle with a range over 2,000 miles and flight speeds up to 652 miles per hour. It can take off from a runway like a plane or launch into the air via a rocket. It was designed to fly alongside a piloted aircraft and provide mission support as part of the US Air Force’s concept “Loyal Wingman” program, according to digitaltrends.com.
The program envisions small robotic drones accompanying fighter jets into combat, scouting ahead or absorbing enemy fire. Military experts have suggested such systems would be useful in a war between two rival nations, something that aligns with the Pentagon’s increasing focus on competing with China and Russia for military dominance, according to washingtonpost.com.
The US Air Force Research Laboratory is among several military agencies dabbling in such technology, partnering with Kratos Defense and Security Solutions to develop the Valkyrie.
Boeing introduced its own “loyal wingman” prototype drone last month, expecting its variant to achieve its first flight next year.
The Valkyrie has an estimated unit cost of $2 million to $3 million, something that is intended to give it a similar cost profile to the antiaircraft missiles that enemies would theoretically fire at it.
Unlike prevailing U.S. drone models such as the MQ-9 Reaper, this is jet-powered and can fly at near-supersonic speeds, which could enable it to keep pace with an F-16 or F-35 fighter jet.