USAF Seeing Operator Interest in “Wingman” Drone as Valkyrie Progresses

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz. Air Force photo by SrA. Joshua Hoskins.

LE BOURGET, France—The same week as the experimental “wingman” drone Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie took its second flight, the Air Force’s head of acquisition said operators are calling for swift action to begin buying the aircraft.

On June 11, the Valkyrie—a long-range intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and strike aircraft—took its second flight at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz. The 30-foot long aircraft, a joint effort with Kratos and the Air Force Research Laboratory, flew for 71 minutes, according to a Kratos release.

Will Roper, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, told reporters at the Paris Air Show there is a “strong demand from operators” to bring a program of record for the aircraft as by the fiscal 2021 Program Objective Memorandum.

Because the system is a “lower-end tech,” the Air Force can begin producing it “quite rapidly,” Roper said. The plan is to buy 20 to 30, using prototyping money authorized by Congress, to continue experimentations, Roper said.

Kratos has said it wants to sell the drone in bulk at a cost of about $2 million per copy, in quantities of more than 100. Three will be produced this year.