You know how some sci-fi and/or apocalyptic movies sometimes depicted unmanned fighter jets going out to take on the enemies? Well, that, my friends, is about to come true. And mind you, we are not talking about the current drones which are mostly use for reconnaissance and maybe drop a guided missile or two. We are talking about full-fledged unmanned, jet-powered fighter jets. We are talking about the experimental XQ-58A Valkyrie Unmanned Fighter Jet.
The XQ-58A won’t be at war alone, though. Capable of navigating autonomously and flying at supersonic speeds, it could keep up with F-16s or F-35s which makes suited as a ‘loyal wingman’ to manned fighter jets. The role of the XQ-58A Valkyrie Unmanned Fighter Jet is no much different from a traditional manned fighter jets, except that they can bear higher risks since no pilot will be onboard. Accompanying manned fighter jets, they’d form a detachment of sort for a sortie and can do riskier task like scouting head or “absorb enemy fire.”
The XQ-58A Valkyrie is described by USAF as a demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle developed by Air Force Research Laboratory in partnership with Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems under the AFRL’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) portfolio. The LCAAT’s object is to “break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft.” Wait. Are they referencing to the controversial F-35 development?
Anywho, XQ-58A Valkyrie Unmanned Fighter Jet has, on March 5, 2019, completed its inaugural flight at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, U.S.A, which lasted for 76 minutes. According to SCMP, the Valkyrie is estimated to cost between $2 million and $3 million a unit. Moving forward, XQ-58A is expected to complete a total of five planned test flights in two phases with objectives that include evaluating system functionality, aerodynamic performance and launch and recovery systems. Oh, wait. They do expect to recover it… and here I am thinking it was sacrificial vehicle.
Images: US Air Force.