The US Air Force hopes that the XQ58-A Valkyrie drone wingman could one day accompany the F-35 and a new version of the F-15 fighter jet, according to Defense news.
The aircraft is designed to play a role known as & # 39; faithful wingman & # 39; – presented as a cheap platform controlled by a parent plane to accomplish a variety of tasks, such as flying forward to explore terrain or to absorb enemy fire. in the event that they are attacked.
The air force is reportedly in talks with defense producers Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which produces the fighter jets, about the integration of the platforms. Will Roper, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, told Defense news Which an upcoming upgrade to the F-35 represents a "wonderful opportunity" to connect the prototype drone. "We also have the option to do this as part of F-15EX," he added. The drone-hunter pairing is not expected to take place quickly – the F-35 must first be upgraded and the XQ58-A Valkyrie has only completed the first of five test flights.
The reports also emphasize that Roper informed legislators that the Valkyrie would be part of a larger artificial intelligence program called Skyborg, which – apart from a terrible name – would be designed to assist pilots as a kind of assistant on board, and compared to something like R2-D2 of the Star Wars movies.
Earlier this spring, the Air Force successfully tested the jet-driven drone for the first time on the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona. The XQ58-A Valkyrie can carry a small number of bombs and comes with a range of 2500 miles, although it cannot fly as fast as the aircraft it designed. When the Air Force first started testing the Valkyrie, it was not yet clear which aircraft it could accompany. An important call for the vehicle is that it is cheap to produce in large numbers: they are said to cost "a few million dollars", which is extremely cheap compared to a larger, manned fighter jet.