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Some really serious new UCAV doctrine being worked on here it seems, cool looking plane (name has cool history too https://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=122 )--several links at original:
Air Force's Secretive XQ-58A Valkyrie Experimental Combat Drone Emerges After First Flight
The QX-58 may lead to a whole new class of highly-flexible and affordable unmanned combat air
Just a week after Boeing unveiled their export-centric 'loyal wingman' combat drone concept [ http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/26656/boeing-will-unveil-this-loyal-wingman-combat-drone-for-australias-air-force-tomorrow ], the Air Force Research Lab has announced that their own similar endeavor, dubbed the XQ-58A Valkyrie, has made its first flight. It also posted the very first image of the aircraft that has been developed under a veil of secrecy over the last two and half years.
A press release from the USAF about the aircraft's first flight reads:
"The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. 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. 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.
Developed for runway independence, the aircraft behaved as expected and completed 76 minutes of flight time. The time to first flight took a little over 2.5 years from contract award. The XQ-58A has a total of five planned test flights in two phases with objectives that include evaluating system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems.
'XQ-58A is the first example of a class of UAV that is defined by low procurement and operating costs while providing game changing combat capability,” said Doug Szczublewski, AFRL’s XQ-58A Program Manager.'"
Beyond finally breaking cover as the USAF's 'attritable' unmanned combat air vehicle concept, the XQ-58A is really the first Air Force UCAV concept we have seen since all the momentum towards fielding any sort of this type of hugely promising aircraft suddenly dematerialized the better part of a decade ago. The XQ-58A very likely represents the low-end on the USAF's shadowy UCAV programs.
It is hoped that the XQ-58A will provide a low cost surveillance, strike, and electronic warfare support capability that can be operated independently, as a cooperative swarm, or as part of a so called 'loyal wingman' concept of operations a group of Q-58s would work under the command of a nearby manned combat aircraft. The stealthy drone, which supposedly has a range of well over 2,000 miles and is capable of carrying a pair of Small Diameter Bombs or electronic warfare and surveillance gear, is also capable of being launched using rocket boosters instead of relying on runways alone...