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Kratos XQ-58A
Kratos XQ-222 Valkyrie
Low-Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator (LCASD)

Andreas Parsch of designation-systems.netreports "XQ-58A is an out-of-sequence designation, where the number was most likely taken from the X-series. There was no X-plane announced between the X-57A and X-59A."

The XQ-58A Valkyrie is a reusable drone that will be paired with fifth-generation F-35 and F-22 fighters. The length of the aircraft is 9.14 m, and the span of its wing is 8.23 m. The Valkyrie’s combat load is 272 kg, and the weapons can be placed both on the wing pylons and inside a special compartment. The drone will be controlled from the nearest aircraft. The XQ-58A Valkyrie is not a full-fledged fighter, it is more suitable for the destruction of the air defense systems, such as the Russian S-400 and S-500. It is planned that the “Valkyries”, each of which is capable of carrying two small diameter guided bombs, will be in the forefront of the attacking orders and take upon themselves the first blow of air defense. Their main target will be enemy radar, anti-aircraft missile launchers, air defense command posts.

Low Cost Attritable Strike Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Demonstration BAA-AFRL-RQKP-2015-0004 was directed at the development of a low cost attritable aircraft technology concept that will provide long range, high speed strike capability in remote regions where forward basing is difficult or prohibited. This effort would design, develop, assemble, and test a technical baseline for a high speed, long range, low cost, limited life strike Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). The program will also identify key enabling technologies for future low cost attritable aircraft demonstrations, and provide a vehicle for future capability and technology demonstrations.

Vast and varied threats throughout the world, plus tighter defense budgets combine to drive the need for new and innovative solutions towards the development of future UAS. As aircraft cost has continued to escalate, the Air Force is interested in UAS concepts that offer dramatic reductions in cost in order to bring “mass” to the engagement, and to achieve a cost imposing effect on future adversaries.

UAS performance, design life/reliability, and maintainability drive the cost of today’s systems, and need to be traded to achieve the optimum capability/cost effects. This effort is directed at the development of an attritable aircraft concept where by virtue of its cost, loss of aircraft could be tolerated; however these aircraft would be intended for reuse with limited life/sorties. Considering the tempo of the engagement and phase of war the level of attritability that would be tolerated could change with operations as they advance with time. This low cost attritable aircraft technology concept will provide long range, transonic, strike capability in remote/contested regions where forward basing is difficult or prohibited.

In that spirit, the Air Force is interested in developing and demonstrating technologies that could enable very affordable and capable vehicles. The Air Force believed that affordability could be attained, in part, through relaxation of traditional Air Force acquisition policy and standards. Historically, these governing requirements and specifications have achieved the required high reliability throughout long service lives while providing ever increasing performance and capability, but have resulted in increased cost and schedule to develop, certify and produce new aircraft. It is believed that the relaxation of these traditional requirements could enable new and innovative design approaches, application of commercial technologies, and implementation of numerous low cost manufacturing and assembly processes that would result in significant cost reduction.

The non-aerospace commercial markets use design practices that are centered on understanding the cost of reliability and its relationship to useful life. In light of this, the Air Force is interested in considering the aircraft, major structural assemblies, and/or key subsystems as limited life commodity products to be treated as line replaceable units. Manufacturing quality and acceptance requirements need to be tailored with design reliability in conjunction with being automated, and scalable to reduce touch labor and flatten the manufacturing cost curve. This is expected to permit using lower cost tooling methods and net shape processing without part quality acceptance being governed by a reliability requirement of less than 1 in 10,000,000 losses per flight hour for the life of the aircraft. Efficient manufacturing technologies and nontraditional industry processes will be key elements needed to achieve the low cost goals of the attritable aircraft vision. This vision includes “on-demand” system manufacturing by leveraging open systems architecture, COTS and distributed manufacturing concepts that will reduce market barriers to entry and enable rapid and agile acquisition.

It is also envisioned that the aircraft concept would provide the basis for multiple variants to be acquired on an as needed and “routine” basis, similar to the historical experience with the series of Firebee drone acquisition programs. This concept of development will provide the ability to exploit new technologies without having to wait for major system upgrade cycles, since customers will be able to “refresh” weapon systems on an as needed basis given that the systems will have a shorter life cycle.

If significant cost reductions can be achieved through these changes and technologies, it is envisioned that a class of low cost, attritable UASs could affordably perform or augment numerous Air Force missions such as engaging Integrated Air Defense Systems (IADS), performing time sensitive strike missions, functioning as a loyal wingman, as well as a host of other ISR missions.

A set of vehicle performance parameters and unit cost targets are provided as stretch goals for this program to drive innovation and spark unconventional design and fabrication approaches. A set of “vision system” vehicle performance and cost parameters should be used to help guide the definition of capability that can be achieved within the cost goal:

  • The replacement cost of each flight worthy vehicle (weight empty) is $3M or less for the first unit and $2M or less for a 100 unit purchase, with the goal of achieving a unit production cost that is independent of order quantity and variable production rates.
  • 1500 nm mission radius with a 500 lb payload at best cruise Mach and altitude
  • Capable of Mach 0.9 dash
  • Maximum g load limits, maneuver rates, and subsystem environmental suitability traded with consideration of the cost goal.
  • Internal or conformal payload/weapons capability; sized to carry at least two GBU-39 small diameter bombs with associated carriage and launch equipment.
  • Emphasis on the use of COTS materials, sub-systems, manufacturing processes, and open mission system architecture concepts.
  • The vehicle shape, elimination of gaps and mismatches, and aero-structural inlet integration approach should be considered in the context of a mission relevant configuration.

The performance parameters of this “vision system” are directed at the development of a strike capability and provide a basis to identify the art of the possible. As part of the vision system, the strike UAS and its variants are anticipated to perform missions that could require nap of the earth flight, cruise at high altitudes, defensive counter air (DCA) maneuvers, offensive counter air (OCA) maneuvers, suppression and destruction of enemy air defenses (SEAD and DEAD), and offer high agility for missile avoidance maneuvers to improve survivability.

It was anticipated that the technical effort for the program would be completed in 27 months, with a first flight within 24 months of contract award. The anticipated cost of the program is $7.85M. Contract number FA865016C2604 in the amount of $40,848,839 was awarded July 8, 2016 to Composite Engineering Inc., a Kratos Defense & Security Company.

Kratos XQ-58A Kratos XQ-58A Kratos XQ-58A

Representing a clean-sheet, low-cost UAS solution, the XQ-222 is changing the paradigm for tactical UAS technology. The XQ-222 delivers a combination of long-range, high-speed, and maneuverability, along with the capability of delivering a mix of lethal weapons from its internal bomb bay and wing stations. Equally adept in the role of Strike or Air-to-Air UAS, the XQ-222 is the future for manned/unmanned teaming and is the affordable alternative for ISR, Strike, Air-to-Air or EA missions. Runway-independence and extreme range deliver maximum operational flexibility and utility to the Warfighter.

Length 29 ft
Wingspan 22 ft
Max Speed 0.85 Mach
Min Altitude 50 ft
Max Altitude 45,000 ft
Max Range 4,700 NM (Approx.)
The new XQ-58A Valkyrie unmanned air vehicle is expected to serve as an inexpensive surveillance, electronic warfare and attack drone, with an additional capability of being able to act in concert with a manned combat aircraft known as the 'loyal wingman' concept. The US Air Force Research Lab released a video in March 2019 of the first flight of the new aircraft during testing after keeping the Valkyrie under tight wraps for over two years. The drone, developed by Kratos Defence, a California-based defence firm, is said to have spent some 76 minutes in flight, with another four test flights planned to scrutinise system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and its launch and recovery systems.

The drone has a presumed range of over 2,000 miles (over 3,200 km) and can be armed with precision-guided bombs or electronic warfare and surveillance equipment. Importantly, the Valkyrie can be launched using rocket boosters, meaning that, unlike many existing US drone programmes, it will not require a runway to take off. In a statement, Air Force Research Lab programme manager Doug Szczublewski boasted that the XQ-58A was "the first example of a class of UAF that is defined by low procurement and operating costs while providing game changing combat capability."

Kratos hopes to sell its new drone to the air force for $3 million apiece if it orders up to 99 units, or $2 million each for orders above 100 units a year.

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Page last modified: 17-03-2019 13:22:23 ZULU