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Successful attritableONE (XQ-58 Valkyrie) return to flight test enables formation flight with fifth-generation fighters

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor and F-35A Lightning II fly in formation with the XQ-58A Valkyrie low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle over the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground testing range, Ariz., during a series of tests Dec. 9, 2020. This integrated test follows a series of gatewayONE ground tests that began during the inaugural Department of the Air Force on-ramp last year in December. (Courtesy photo)

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor and F-35A Lightning II fly in formation with the XQ-58A Valkyrie low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle over the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground testing range, Ariz., during a series of tests Dec. 9, 2020. This integrated test follows a series of gatewayONE ground tests that began during the inaugural Department of the Air Force on-ramp last year in December. (Courtesy photo)

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor and F-35A Lightning II fly in formation with the XQ-58A Valkyrie low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle over the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground testing range, Ariz., during a series of tests Dec. 9, 2020. This integrated test follows a series of gatewayONE ground tests that began during the inaugural Department of the Air Force on-ramp last year in December.

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor and F-35A Lightning II fly in formation with the XQ-58A Valkyrie low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle over the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground testing range, Ariz., during a series of tests Dec. 9, 2020. This integrated test follows a series of gatewayONE ground tests that began during the inaugural Department of the Air Force on-ramp last year in December. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Cason)

An XQ-58A Valkyrie low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle launches at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., Dec. 9, 2020. The acquisition team – comprised of Air Force Research Laboratory and Air Force Life Cycle Management Center personnel working in conjunction with Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.’s 46th Test Squadron – came together to conduct the historic test.

An XQ-58A Valkyrie low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle launches at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., Dec. 9, 2020. The acquisition team – comprised of Air Force Research Laboratory and Air Force Life Cycle Management Center personnel working in conjunction with Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.’s 46th Test Squadron – came together to conduct the historic test. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua King)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The Air Force Research Laboratory, along with partner Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc., completed the successful fifth flight test of the XQ-58A Valkyrie low-cost unmanned air vehicle demonstrator on Dec. 9, 2020, at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
 
During the test event, an F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning, the Air Force’s two fifth-generation fighters formed up off the wings of the smaller Valkyrie as it continued to fly autonomously in formation. This is a major milestone in the service’s efforts to provide low cost force multipliers in relevant operational environments.
 
“The experiments today [Dec. 9] represent a first step in demonstrating the potential of attritable aircraft as a force multiplier in a manned/unmanned environment,” said Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, AFRL commander. “We’re impressed with the close collaboration of industry, the Air Force Test Center, the acquisition community and AFRL that helped get us here.” 
 
The Valkyrie met 80% of the overall flight test objectives with 100% of the formation flying objectives being met before safely landing in the Arizona desert, according to AFRL XQ-58A Program Manager, Michael Wipperman.
 
“As the ABMS attritableONE Product Lead and XQ-58 Valkyrie AFRL Program Manager, I’m proud of the partnership with AFLCMC, the Air Force Test Center, and our Air Force Acquisition and industry partners, and the team’s ability to go from concept to demonstration in six months,” said Wipperman. “This was the fifth successful launch of the Valkyrie, but the first time the platform has integrated a new warfighting capability payload and flown in formation with an F-22 and F-35.”
 
Wipperman added, “The XQ-58A modularity and ability to carry robust payloads enabled the rapid capability integration into an attritable experimentation vehicle. We’re thrilled with the seamless integration and demonstration of this flight. We look forward to continued capability enhancement at future demonstrations.”
 
Developed by Kratos Defense & Security Solutions and AFRL as part of the latter’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology portfolio, the XQ-58A is designed to be a runway-independent, re-usable unmanned air vehicle capable of a broad range of operational missions. The XQ-58A was developed through low cost procurement and is designed to be significantly less expensive to operate than traditional piloted or unpiloted vehicles, while capable of achieving the same critical missions. Taking only two and a half years from contract award to first flight, it is the first example of a class of unmanned air vehicles developed through this time-saving process, which seeks to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft.
 
About AFRL
 
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.