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US Marine Corps Valkyrie Tactical Drone Completes Maiden Flight

The US Marine Corps completed the first flight of its XQ-58A Valkyrie military aerial drone at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

The test is part of the Penetrating Affordable Autonomous Collaborative Killer – Portfolio (PAACK-P) initiative, a program seeking an “agile, expeditionary, and lethal” drone to support the marines and the joint force in austere environments.

The US Marine Corps works with the US Navy and the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense to facilitate the ongoing research, developments, and assessments for PAACK-P.

The Valkyrie

Built by Kratos, the XQ-58A was designed as a low-cost strike demonstrator for the US Air Force.

Current developments pursue the drone’s maturation into an asset capable of escorting existing US defense fighter aircraft, such as the F-22 Raptor or F-35 Lightning II.

XQ-58 is planned to operate with zero human control or as part of a drone swarm.

Trials prior to the Eglin demonstration involved validating Valkyrie’s performance with an artificial intelligence pilot.

A U.S. Marine Corps XQ-58A Valkyrie, highly autonomous, low-cost tactical unmanned air vehicle, conducts its first test flight with a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft assigned to 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 3, 2023. The XQ-58A Valkyrie test flight and the data collected inform future requirements for the Marine Corps in a rapidly evolving security environment, while successfully fueling joint innovation and experimentation opportunities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Tristan McIntire)
A US Marine Corps XQ-58A Valkyrie completes first test flight at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Photo: Master Sgt. Tristan McIntire/US Department of Defense

PAACK-P Program

The 40th Flight Test Squadron, 96th Test Wing, and the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division led the Florida evaluation.

During the activity, the aircraft performed according to the marine corps’ requirements.

“This XQ-58A test flight and the data collected today not only help to inform future requirements for the Marine Corps,” Office of the Undersecretary of Defense Research and Development’s Scott Bey stated.

“It fuels continued joint innovation and experimentation opportunities and demonstrates the agility that can be achieved through partnership.” 

The XQ-58A will undergo six additional test deployments following its maiden flight. Each phase will focus on the system’s effectiveness in intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance missions, autonomous functionality, crewed aircraft support, and manned-unmanned teaming.

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