Valkyrie Drone Launches Smaller Drone Mid-Air for the First Time

The small UAV was launched out of the open internal weapons bay mid-air as part of a training exercise.
Fabienne Lang
XQ-58A Valkyrie openings its bay doors for the first timeAFRL

On March 26, an XQ-58A Valkyrie drone launched an ALTIUS-600 small, unmanned aircraft system (SUAS) from its open internal weapons bay for the first time. 

The Valkyrie drone was on its sixth flight test, which the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) carried out at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. 

The AFRL announced the successful test's outcome on Monday, April 5, sharing its triumph with Area-I, and Kratos, all of which designed and fabricated the SUAS carriage, and developed the software that enables the release.

Not only did the release of the smaller drone from the weapons bay prove successful, the XQ-58A Valkyrie then continued on to carry out additional tests "to expand its demonstrated operating envelope," read the release. 

The entire team showed its enthusiasm through the words of Alyson Turri, the demonstration program manager, who said "This is the sixth flight of the Valkyrie and the first time the payload bay doors have been opened in flight."

"In addition to this first SUAS separation demonstration, the XQ-58A flew higher and faster than previous flights."

The XQ-58A Valkyrie and ALTIUS-600 drones

This test demonstrates the positive use of affordable, high-performance drones.

The Valkyrie, for instance, is what's called an "attritable" drone — a UAV that's reusable but affordable enough that losing it in combat won't break the Army's bank, explains Defense News.

It's a high subsonic, long-range strike UAV that's developed by Kratos, alongside the AFRL. It can carry a payload of up to 544 kg (1,199 pounds), and its maximum launch weight sits at 2,722 kg (6,000 pounds).

The smaller ALTIUS-600 drone, developed by Area I, can be used for a number of different missions. From electronic warfare to intelligence, and from surveillance and reconnaissance to counter-UAS, it's a handy little drone. It has over four hours of endurance, and a range of 440 km (276 miles), weighing up to 12 kg (27 pounds).

As militaries around the world keep developing their weapons systems, it's fascinating watching how future, and modern, warfare may look like. 

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