First flight for USMC VALKYRIE UAV 20/10/2023 | Fabio Di Felice

The US Marine Corps completed its first test flight of its ‘attritable’ UAV VALKYRIE. As previously reported by RID in March, the service received the first of 2 XQ-58A VALKYRIE drones in order to conduct experiments with these large Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

At this stage, the VALKIRYE project aims to offer a pretty dynamic platform and capability set to use in the tactical arena at an affordable price level. As reported by the USMC spokesman, in its test flight, the aircraft performed as expected, without providing additional details about the nature of the mission assigned. According to Kratos, being a ‘group 5 UAV’ (the largest) and weighing in at around 6,000 pounds (2.721 kg) with a roughly 27-foot-wingspan (8,2 m), the XQ-58A is planned to cost approximately $6.5 million per unit. It can be considered a relatively low-cost platform compared to the General Atomics’ MQ-9 REAPER drone, designed for surveillance, which costs approximately $38 million.

The new UAV would allow the Marine Corps, and the Navy, to reach the 1,500-3,000 Nautical Miles range (2.770-5.500 km) and support the amphibious/littoral force. As reported, noting its price and lack of crew, the VALKYRIE could be considered “attritable,” meaning it is expected to see the aircraft downed in combat after a few missions. According to the Marine Corps, the new drone will also be flown by artificial intelligence, requiring minimum support by human operators, and conducting a wide spectrum of missions such as strike, intelligence gathering, and electronic warfare, as well as operate as “mothership” for small drones or loyal wingman to a traditional crewed aircraft, in support of their new EABO and littoral maneuver concepts. In accordance with the "Force Design 2030" guidance, the test flight occurred as part of the Marine Corps’ Penetrating Affordable Autonomous Collaborative Killer – Portfolio program, according to the USMC website. The Marine Corps planned to conduct 6 test flights in the near future with the VALKYRIE to complete its evaluation and full mission rehearsals. Video of the flight posted by the Marine Corps shows the drone, which doesn’t require a runway, taking off at Eglin Air Force Base on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

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