It was a short career for XQ-58A Tail No. 1, but one that put it in the history books.
The unmanned aircraft, called a Valkyrie, first flew in March 2019 and flew a total of three or four times — accounts vary.
A product of Kratos Defense & Security Solutions Inc. (Nasdaq: KTOS), Tail No. 1 now makes its home at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. It’s sharing space with scores of other drones that have played parts in Air Force history.
The Air Force has other XQ-58A aircraft in its inventory, and continues to experiment with them. Kratos is proud of its aircraft. It occupies a prime spot on the company homepage.
The Attritable Aircraft
The unmanned XQ-58A is intended to be a “wingman” for piloted jets. It is also a low-cost aircraft — by various estimates costing $2 million to $3 million — and therefore “attritable.” In other words, it is inexpensive enough for the military to lose one in combat.
By contrast, state-of-the-art stealth fighters such as Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 Lightning II are very expensive. Members of the military often call such manned systems “exquisite.”
The XQ-58A was designed, built and demonstrated very quickly. It was only two and a half years from contract award to first flight. Kratos collaborated with the Air Force Research Laboratory on the project.
The Valkyrie is 30 feet long, has a wingspan of 27 feet, and has a maximum weight at launch of 6,000 pounds. It can carry 600 pounds of internal payload. It is powered by a turbofan jet and its cruise speed is listed at 0.72 Mach — which is about 540 mph at sea level. It can fly as high as 45,000 feet.
Kratos, based in Scripps Ranch, builds its unmanned aircraft in Sacramento and at a new facility in Oklahoma. Kratos’ unmanned systems business generated $231.9 million in revenue last year — roughly one quarter of its $811.5 million total revenue.
Unmanned systems revenue at the company grew 24% from 2020.
At the end of the 2021, total backlog for the Kratos Unmanned Systems segment stood at $269.6 million, up from $237.9 million at the end of 2020.
Kratos produces other unmanned aircraft as well, including target drones for military training.
Kratos Defense & Security Solutions Inc.
FOUNDED: 1994 as Wireless Facilities Inc.
CEO: Eric DeMarco
HEADQUARTERS: Scripps Ranch
BUSINESS: Defense contractor
REVENUE: $811.5 million in 2021; $747.7 million in 2020
STOCK: KTOS on NASDAQ
EMPLOYEES: 72 in San Diego
CONTACT: 858- 812-7300
NOTABLE: The company also produces unmanned ground vehicles