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Kratos’ Mako drone approved for sale to foreign militaries

Drone manufacturer Kratos Defense & Security Solutions announced on 13 March that the US State Department approved sale of its Mako UTAP-22 unmanned aerial drone to undisclosed countries in Europe and Asia Pacific.

The Mako drone is designed as a so-called loyal wingman; an unmanned aerial vehicle that would fly, and possibly fight, alongside advanced fighters such as the Lockheed Martin F-22 and F-35 in contested airspace. The drone could also be deployed independently or in groups, Kratos said.

The aircraft is based on the design of an unmanned aerial vehicle manufactured by San Diego-based Kratos, the BQM-167A, which is used by the US Air Force for target practice. The company boasts that the Mako drone is highly manoeuvrable, as well as capable of carrying and operating weapons and advanced sensor systems. The drone has ”fighter-like” performance including an operational ceiling of 50,000ft, a top speed of 0.91 Mach and range of 1,400nm (2,590km), according to a spec sheet on Kratos’ website.

In 2015, the Mako demonstrated the ability to fly in coordination with a manned fighter aircraft, an AV-8B Harrier, including the ability to be commanded and controlled through a tactical data link; execution of semi-autonomous tasks; and, execution of autonomous flight in formation with the AV-8B and with multiple other Mako drones, according to Kratos.

Kratos said it already works with most of the export-approved nations on other programmes, contracts, systems and products, including its unmanned aerial target drone programme. But, the company said it would not disclose additional information about its potential customers, citing competitive reasons.

The Mako drone, priced between $2 million and $3 million, has been floated as a possible low-cost wingman to the Lockheed Martin F-35, which at its least-expensive price point costs $95 million. Current and future operators of the F-35 include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Israel, Singapore, Japan and South Korea.

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