Kratos Defense and Security Solutions has begun placing engine orders in anticipation of receiving first series production contracts for its XQ-58A Valkyrie unmanned combat air system (UCAS) before the end of 2019.
Developed in conjunction with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) under the Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator (LCASD) programme, the XQ-58A is a ‘loyal wingman’ designed to function as an armed adjunct to conventional manned fighters.
A prototype is being flight tested by the AFRL. The second of five planned demonstration flights was completed on 11 June, achieving 100% of planned test points. Kratos has built a further two Valkyrie air vehicles, which remain under its ownership.
Reporting the company’s second quarter 2019 results in a 31 July earnings call, Kratos president and CEO Eric DeMarco said that the company was confident that Valkyrie was “on track for initial production and a programme of record”.
In response, the company has begun ordering engines “for expected Valkyrie production to meet anticipated future customer delivery requirements,” DeMarco said. The XQ-58A demonstrator is powered by an off-the-shelf Williams International FJ33 twin-spool turbofan; it has not been confirmed if this engine type is being retained for follow-on production.
Kratos believes that it could receive orders for between 20 and 40 Valkyrie vehicles by the end of the year. According to DeMarco, the US Air Force (USAF) has shown interest in acquiring 20–30 air vehicles for operational experimentation, test, and integration. He also alluded to potential new customers, one of which has “recently expressed interest in acquiring up to an initial 10 Valkyries in either the fourth quarter of this year or the first half of 2020”.
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