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AFRL completes fourth flight test of XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator

28 January 2020
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The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator performed its fourth test flight on 23 January. It is pictured in flight during an earlier demonstration. Source: USAF

The US Air Force (USAF) has completed the fourth flight test of the XQ-58A Valkyrie long-range, high subsonic, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) demonstrator over the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona on 23 January, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) announced the next day.

AFRL said in its announcement that the XQ-58A demonstrator successfully completed all test objectives, pointing out that the UAV had been flown at a higher altitude to acquire data that would be more representative of operational flight conditions.

"Flying at this altitude helped us gather important data such as vehicle response to temperature and vibration, which will prepare us as we move toward our next flight test," said AFRL XQ-58A programme manager Michael Wipperman.

"We were able to show recovery for a successful flight at even higher altitudes. Given that we have overcome these challenges, we have confidence that the aircraft can continue its progression into flying in more representative conditions," he added.

The latest test also marked a return of the XQ-58A demonstrator to flight testing, following repairs and a safety investigation after a landing incident at the conclusion of its third test flight on 9 October 2019.

The demonstrator had completed a 90-minute flight, successfully completing all test points, and deployed its recovery parachute for descent. However, high surface winds and a malfunction of its provisional flight test recovery system - essentially a prototype cushion - had resulted in damage to the air vehicle.

Under development as part of AFRL's Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) programme, the XQ-58A is designed to be a re-usable, runway-independent UAV that can be used for a broad range of missions. The type is intended to be acquired and fielded through a low-cost procurement initiative and is designed to be significantly less expensive to operate than traditional piloted or remotely operated vehicles, while providing comparable operational utility.

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