When Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) finally matured as Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms over an active battlefield, thought turned to arming these systems - producing the Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) subcategory. Now, with the maturity being experienced with UCAV designs, the concept of reusable / disposable "swarm" UAVs is beginning to take shape. Companies like Kratos have attempted to stay at the forefront of such an initiative, building upon their experiences in providing the United States military with high-performance unmanned aerial targets.
The XQ-58 (formerly designated as the "XQ-222") is under development by the company by way of a USAF contract for an economical unmanned aerial system capable of light strike through precision-guided munitions while working in conjunction with manned attack aircraft. The benefits of such a product are many but chiefly centered on low-cost / low project risk and ease of serial production. There is also the added benefit of not risking personnel over contested airspace should the drone be lost. It is envisioned that a fleet of these attack drones, in some cases accompanied by manned aircraft, will swarm target areas with bombs, overwhelming enemy defenses and strategic positions prior to the arrival of the main fighting force.
Based on an artist concept of the XQ-58, the aircraft carries an angled fuselage tapered at both ends. An intake sits atop the spine to aspirate the presumed turbojet engine installation within (the engine will most likely be an outsourced off-the-shelf powerplant). At the belly is an internal bomb bay and underwing hardpoints will also figure in. The tail unit is blended into the fuselage and sports outward-canted vertical fins - no horizontal tailplanes are featured. The wing mainplanes are swept back and positioned near midships.
The system is being designed with a maximum range of 3,000 miles and a war load of up to 500 lb. Max speed will be subsonic. The aircraft will not require the facilities of a prepared runaway - take-off is to be accomplished by way of rocket-assist and recovery by parachute. Because of Kratos' experience in developing military-grade target drones, which mimic enemy aircraft actions and reactions, the XQ-58 should benefit immensely in terms of capability when avoiding air defenses.
The XQ-58 is being developed from the ground up (clean-sheet design). Presented specs include an overall length of 29 feet and a wingspan of 22 feet. Listed maximum speed is Mach 0.85. Minimum altitude is 50 feet and maximum altitude is 45,000 feet.
Beyond its strike capabilities, it is possible that the XQ-58 will also be able to engage aerial targets in direct air-to-air combat given Kratos' past experience with drones.