Kratos Defense & Security Solutions’ XQ-58A Valkyrie performed its sixth flight late last month, culminating with the “loyal wingman” releasing an air-launched effect vehicle from its internal weapons bay for the first time.

Conducted over the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona by the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) on 26 March, the test flight involved the release of an Area-I Altius-600 small unmanned air system (SUAS).

Kratos Valkyrie releases Altius-600

Source: Kratos Defense & Security Solutions

The attritable aircraft released Altius-600 air-launched effect during 26 March flight

“Kratos, Area-I and AFRL designed and fabricated the SUAS carriage and developed software to enable release,” the research laboratory says. This was also the first time that the aircraft’s weapons bay doors had been opened in flight.

“In addition to this first SUAS separation demonstration, the XQ-58A flew higher and faster than previous flights,” says Alyson Turri, the AFRL’s demonstration programme manager. “This test further demonstrates the utility of affordable, high performance unmanned air vehicles.”

“Successful operation of the internal weapons release system/function along with further aerodynamic envelope increases continues to assert the incredible capability and cost-per-performance value of the low-cost attritable XQ-58A Valkyrie,” says Steve Fendley, president of Kratos’s unmanned systems division.

Fendley says the company’s 30-month development activity with the AFRL has “resulted in a pre-production system with substantial operational capability, not simply a proof-of-concept flight demonstrator.”

The XQ-58A was developed in support of the AFRL’s Low-Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator programme. The programme’s fifth test-flight was conducted in December 2020, during which the aircraft was flown in formation with USAF Lockheed Martin F-22 and F-35 fighters.