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Valkyrie drone to support US fighter jets


The US Air Force has carried out a successful test of an advanced, jet-powered drone called the XQ-58A Valkyrie that may someday fly alongside a piloted plane on missions or even absorb enemy fire instead of the piloted plane.


Valkyrie drone to support US fighter jets The XQ-58A Valkyrie (Picture source: Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins )


The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. The Air Force Research Laboratory partnered with Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems to develop the XQ-58A.

Developed for runway independence, the aircraft behaved as expected and completed 76 minutes of flight time. The time to first flight took a little over 2.5 years from contract award. The XQ-58A has a total of five planned test flights in two phases with objectives that include evaluating system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems.

The first tests of the drone have been alone, but it is intended to play the role of a "loyal wingman": the drone will be controlled by the pilot of the plane it flies alongside. The drone can provide extra force protection or go ahead or behind for surveillance purposes scouting terrain and on occasion even drawing fire away from the piloted plane.

The range of the drone is expected to be about 2,500 miles about the same range as existing fighters. The F16 Fighting Falcon has a range of just more than 2,600 miles while the F22 Raptor's range is just over 1,800 miles. The two planes can travel up to 1,500 miles per hour while the Valkyrie can go only 652 miles per hour.