Drone Launched another Drone
During the test, the drone launched a smaller drone from its internal weapons bay.
The XQ-58A Valkyrie is a long-range unmanned aerial vehicle capable of high subsonic speeds. It was built by Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems for the Air Force Research Laboratory's Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) program and first flew on March 5th, 2019.
During its sixth flight test, the aircraft conducted its first payload release from its internal weapons bay, launching an Area-I ALTIUS-600 small unmanned aircraft system.
The Air Force is looking at relatively inexpensive, expendable drones like the Valkyrie as potential artificial-intelligence-driven autonomous platforms that could fly alongside and support manned fighter aircraft. This is the primary focus of the Skyborg program.
The Air Force's Skyborg project, for which Kratos, Boeing, and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems are developing prototypes, is about fielding autonomous unmanned systems that will "enable the Air Force to operate and sustain low-cost, teamed aircraft that can thwart adversaries with quick, decisive actions in contested environments," according to the service.
This test, conducted in partnership with Kratos UAS and Area-I, demonstrated the ability to launch an ALTIUS-600 small, unmanned aircraft system (SUAS) from the internal weapons bay XQ-58A. Kratos, Area-I and AFRL designed and fabricated the SUAS carriage and developed software to enable release. After the successful release of the SUAS, the XQ-58A completed additional test points to expand its demonstrated operating envelope.
The smaller, tube-launched autonomous ALTIUS-600 drones provide additional support in intelligence gathering and reconnaissance, counter-drone, electronic warfare, and strike capabilities.
The recent test followed the Valkyrie drone's fifth flight test in December, which involved the aircraft flying alongside Air Force F-22 and F-35A fighters and a Marine Corps F-35B.