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.
May 2017 - Kratos has officially named its XQ-222 vehicle the 'Valkyrie'.
January 2019 - The Kratos XQ-222 is now formally redesignated to XQ-58.
March 2019 - On March 5th, 2019, the Kratos XQ-58A successfully completed its first-flight over the Yuma Proving Ground of Arizona. The test, which lasted over one hour, is the first of five launches planned for the project. The air vehicle was rail-launched and recovered by way of parachute.
January 2020 - A fourth test involving the Kratos XQ-58A was recorded on January 23rd, 2020. In the event, the unmanned aircraft pushed its flight envelope further (higher altitude) and was successfully recovered in the after-action.
December 2020 - An F-22, F-35A, and XQ-58A drone have been conducting joint, in-air data-sharing exercises.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Ground Attack (Bombing, Strafing)
Ability to conduct aerial bombing of ground targets by way of (but not limited to) guns, bombs, missiles, rockets, and the like.
✓Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.
Aircraft inherently designed (or later developed) with an unmanned capability to cover a variety of over-battlefield roles.
28.9 ft (8.80 m)
22.0 ft (6.70 m)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Kratos XQ-58 production variant)
1 x Turbojet / turbofan engine of unknown make, model, and thrust output.
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