United States XQ-58A Valkyrie drone intended to become the “loyal wingman” for F-22 and F-35 pilots, was damaged during its third flight on October 9.
"The XQ-58A Valkyrie completed the third flight of the Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program October 9 at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona. Unfortunately, high surface winds and a malfunction of the vehicle’s provisional flight test recovery system resulted in a mishap after landing which damaged the aircraft," the USAF said in a statement.
The drone is a part of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program. It completed all test objectives during the 90-minute flight. The third flight continued to expand the envelope, successfully pushing the flight demonstrator to higher speeds and altitudes to further test the system, the statement read.
“We continue to learn about this aircraft and the potential the technology can offer to the warfighter. This third flight successfully completed its objectives and expanded the envelope from the first two flights. We have gathered a great deal of valuable data from the flight and will even learn from this mishap. Ultimately, that is the objective of any experiment and we’re pleased with the progress of the Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program,” said Maj. Gen. William Cooley, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory.
The scheduled fourth flight of the Valkyrie will be delayed until conclusion of a safety investigation. There was no other damage to property or personnel. The XQ-58A completed its first flight in March 2019, and the second in June 2019.
The program aims at providing Air Force pilots with a cheap unmanned attack aircraft that is both disposable but also reliable. The service hopes to have the transonic drone one day governed by the “Skyborg” artificial intelligence system.
The Air Force Research Laboratory partnered with Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems to develop the XQ-58A. This joint effort falls within the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) portfolio, which has the objective to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft., AFRL said in a statement Thursday.
The objectives of the LCAAT initiative include designing and building UAS faster by developing better design tools, and maturing and leveraging commercial manufacturing processes to reduce build time and cost.