WASHINGTON — The US begins testing the Kratos XQ‑58A Valkyrie drone. The tests will be conducted at Eglin Air Force Base by the 40th Flight Test Squadron [FLTS]. The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Office of Strategic Planning and Experimentation will also participate in the tests.
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The arrival of the XQ‑58A Valkyrie at Eglin is an exciting event, but also a challenge. Adequate infrastructure and logistics will have to be created at the base. Realistically, everything will start from scratch, as this drone is a “new military environment.” That’s according to Maj. John Nygaard, 40th FLTS AAx team leader.
The XQ‑58A Valkyrie tests at Eglin will be the aircraft’s first test flights with capability assessment, data transfer and processing and autonomy. So far, the systems have been tested on the ground. Now, however, the base will not only have to carry out the Valkyrie flights but also process, evaluate and analyze the data obtained during the tests.
That’s why the choice of Eglin Air Force Base is not accidental. The base has a built-in communication structure. It will allow “ground station engineers at the Central Control Center to monitor the performance of the vehicle during flight,” Nygard said. Eglin Air Force Base has developed operational autonomous operations for air weapons systems as well as safety processes, continued the 40th FLTS AAx team leader.
Despite the infrastructural base and developed test procedures, they will have to pass with extremely short deadlines. That is why the tests are defined as time critical. At the end of this year and next year 2023, tests will be carried out with Valkyrie in various weather conditions.
At the same time, Eglin Air Force Base is opening up new opportunities thanks to testing. For example, the XQ-58A can be tested with various software solutions due to its open architecture. The new software solutions can be compared with the data and characteristics obtained from the simulator tests before. All this could reveal the new potential for the XQ‑58A Valkyrie.
Last but not least, not only American software solutions will be integrated into the aircraft, but also those of partner countries. This will allow a better preview of the aircraft’s capabilities when it begins to be serially produced and offered on international markets. One of the first potential buyers could be Poland, which expressed a similar intention in 2021 during the local defense and security exhibition MSPO in Kielce.
The specialists at Eglin will most likely launch the XQ‑58A Valkyrie from a rail system. The ground station at the base will carry out operator control of the drone. The base says that the avionics of the drone is at an exceptional level and allow the selection of an excellent trajectory during the flight, according to the set settings and commands from the ground. It is possible and most likely will happen, that at Eglin they test the autonomy of the XQ‑58A with a fighter in the air.
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