Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems Inc., Sacramento, California, is awarded a $15,515,343 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to procure and deliver a quantity of two XQ-58A unmanned aerial systems (UAS) with sensor and weapon system payloads to accomplish the penetrating affordable autonomous collaborative killer – portfolio objectives, including technical services non-recurring engineering, system/subsystem integration, installation, testing, ground and flight operations, logistics, and maintenance for the UAS as well as government-owned, contractor-operated operations for flight test and demonstration events at government test ranges. Work will be performed in Sacramento, California, and is expected to be completed in September 2023. The U.S. Naval Air Warfare Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.
The Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie is an experimental stealthy unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) designed and built by Kratos Defense & Security Solutions for the United States Air Force Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator (LCASD) program, under the USAF Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) project portfolio. The goal of LCAAT is to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically-relevant aircraft. This partnership included Kratos’ design and production of the aircraft, while the AFRL Aerospace Systems Directorate provided critical turbine inlet integration, structural testing, and evaluation of the XQ-58’s electrical and control subsystems. It was initially designated the XQ-222. The Valkyrie successfully completed its first flight on 5 March 2019 at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
The XQ-58 is designed to act as a “loyal wingman” that is controlled by a parent aircraft to accomplish tasks such as scouting, defensive fire, or absorbing enemy fire if attacked. The role of the LCAAT is to escort the F-22 or F-35 during combat missions, and to be able to deploy weapons or surveillance systems. It features stealth technology with a trapezoidal fuselage with a chined edge, V-tail, and an S-shaped air intake. The XQ-58 is capable of being deployed as part of a swarm of drones, with or without direct pilot control. Though the XQ-58 is capable of conventional take-offs and landings, it can also be launched from “nondescript launch modules”, such as support ships, shipping containers, and semi-trailer trucks. Kratos could produce between 250-500 Valkyries per year.
The XQ-58A addresses the issues of cost, maintenance, and attrition tolerance. This low cost, low maintenance, more expendable platform is capable of achieving the same vital missions as existing aircraft, both manned and unmanned. The intent of this effort is to demonstrate the ability to field an attritable aircraft quickly and inexpensively by developing and using better design tools and maturing and leveraging commercial manufacturing processes to reduce build time and cost. The employment of a class of attritable aircraft like the XQ-58A provides the warfighter the opportunity to project air power with complexity, and unpredictability. Future flights will demonstrate XQ-58A capability as a communications gateway between 5th gen aircraft and as low cost forward layered sensing.