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Jet drone maker Kratos reveals newest, most capable UAV

Kratos Defense and Security Solutions has revealed to FlightGlobal the existence of a new jet-powered, high-subsonic unmanned air vehicle (UAV) that has successfully completed several demonstration flights with an unnamed customer.

The maker of the UTAP-22 loyal wingman and the XQ-222 low-cost, attritable UAVs has yet to reveal a designation for the new UAV but has completed an initial series of meetings with undisclosed customers interested in the low-cost, high performance jet, says Kratos chief executive Eric DeMarco.

The new UAV was developed within Kratos' "secret, special programs group,” DeMarco said during a 4 May earnings call with analysts. “We have had several successful demonstration flights with the government agency with this new UAV, which in my opinion is our most capable aircraft developed to-date.”

In a follow-up email to FlightGlobal, DeMarco elaborated on the capabilities of the UAV. The UAV’s publicly disclosable altitude performance ranges between 10ft and 45,000ft, he says. DeMarco would not disclose the aircraft’s g-force tolerance, stealth profile or range, but says the jet can perform sustained-g turns and weaves. Like other Kratos UAVs, the new aircraft is launched on a railed catapult and recovered by deploying a parachute and floating to the ground.

Kratos discloses the new UAV possesses a payload capacity of 136kg (300lb), which is lighter than the 226kg carried by the XQ-222 Valkyrie proposed for the US Air Force's Low-Cost, Attritable Strike Unmanned Air System Demonstration (LCASD).

Both LCASD and the newest UAV are designed to perform and survive in the most challenging environment for combat aircraft — airspace defended by surface to air missiles and opposing fighters, DeMarco adds.

Kratos has emerged as a major player in jet-powered UAV development efforts since acquiring Composite Engineering Inc (CEI) exactly five years ago today. The acquisition included CEI's portfolio of jet-powered target drones, including the BQM-167, BQM-177 and Firejet. Kratos developed the UTAP-22 design from the subsonic BQM-167 target, but the XQ-222 represented a clean-sheet design.

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