The US Air Force's XQ-58A Valkyrie drone has a range of up to 3,500 miles

It is heavier; it flies higher, and even longer.
Ameya Paleja
The XQ-58A Valkyrie Block 2's first flight
The XQ-58A Valkyrie Block 2's first flight


The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Kratos Defense and Security Solutions collaboratively tested Block 2 of its XQ-58A Valkyrie unmanned aircraft at the Yuma Proving Ground last week, a press release said.

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) have been deployed in warfare for almost two decades now. While innovative and expensive, these systems allowed militaries to carry out operations in high-risk areas without any harm to personnel. With the development of counter-UAS measures though, the need for expendable drones has also risen and we have seen multiple examples of single-use UAS being deployed.

Developed by Kratos, the XQ-58A Valkyrie UAS provides a golden mean between these two classes of drones. While it can be reused upon recovery, if lost during a high-risk operation, the price tag of the drone is not too high to pinch the military budget either.

Features of the XQ-58A Valkyrie

The XQ-58A is a subsonic drone with a long range. The original version had a payload capacity of nearly 1,200 pounds (544 kg) and a 30-feet (9.1 m) long drone can cruise at 548 miles (882 km) an hour.

The drone is estimated to have a range of 3,500 miles (5,600 km) and a service ceiling of 45,000 feet (14,000 m). The drone completed its first flight in 2019 and last year, Kratos demonstrated that the Valkyrie could carry a smaller drone as its payload and deploy it mid-air when required to meet its operational requirement.

The aircraft is also designed to escort U.S. Air Force's advanced fighters deploying weapons or surveillance measures and can also be deployed in a swarm. After testing the functionality, and aerodynamic performance, Kratos is now working on Block 2 of the UAS and recently completed the first test of the advanced version.

Systems tested in Valkyrie Block 2

As per the press release, the successful test of the Block 2 aircraft confirmed that the Valkyrie could fly longer, heavier, and with larger mission weights. Although the exact specifications of these achievements were not released to the media, the press release confirmed that they were higher than those approved for

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Kratos has built 12 units of Block 2 and the recently concluded flight was the first for the aircraft with this tail number. During the flight, the aircraft radio communications package on the UAS was tested for range and operational missions.

The US Air Force's XQ-58A Valkyrie drone has a range of up to 3,500 miles
Recovery of the drone

In an exercise simulating a loss of communications scenario, the aircraft navigated itself to a landing zone and landed within the target zone, demonstrating its autonomous capabilities. The ability to fly without any communications from the base also means that the aircraft can return to its strategic location without giving an opportunity for adversaries to track its communication signature.

"Wargames and analyses consistently report that mass is the solution to enable winning in today’s conflict arena and that a lower count of exquisite systems consistently fails," said Steve Fendly, the President of Kratos Unammend Systems Divison.

"Kratos is laser-focused on the disruptive, affordable solution set.”

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