Chinese aviation engineers reported that they found a flaw in the new US Air Force Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie combat drone. They asserted that the experimental system may not be as effective as predicted in combat.
A publication in the South China Morning Post reports that the aircraft design receiving processing through reverse engineering showed poor maneuverability. The aircraft is only able to withstand a pull of only about 1.7 times that of gravity (G), while fighter aircraft are capable of reaching 7Gs. This results from a US focus on electronic and stealth capabilities rather than aerodynamics.
Citing senior engineer Lu Yuanjie and colleagues in a paper published in the domestic peer-reviewed journal Aircraft Design, the article says that such unmanned models are predicted to “become the main force on the battlefield and become a new leading power in the transformation of the man-machine coordinated combat model.”
“Although the XQ-58A will still be in the testing and verification stage in the short term, the accumulation of related technologies and the verification of application models will affect the basic style of future air combat, and we should pay full attention to this,” said Professor Guo Zheng and colleagues in a paper published in National Defence Technology in February.
Guo added that with the possibility of the US using swarms of such drones departing from the small islands or from Taiwan in a possible war with China, the latter has many options to counter such cutting-edge weapon systems.
The drone is low cost
With a relatively low cost of US $2 million, it is expected to be produced and deployed on a large scale. Last month, the US Air Force awarded a US $13.2 million contract to defense contractor Kratos in order to get the XQ-58A ready for service by 2023. Since 2019, the drone has made six test flights and suffered two incidents in landing and take-off operations.
Loyal Wingman project
According to data released by the air force, the recorded top speed of the Valkyrie is Mach 0.95 (1164 kilometers per hour) so it’s subsonic. China, on the other hand, is developing high-speed drones that it claims can attain speeds of up to Mach 5 (6125.22 kph).
The XQ-58A Valkyrie features a trapezoidal fuselage that integrates swept-back main wings, a V-shaped tail. The stealthy design makes the UAV a difficult target to detect and track.
The long-range strike aircraft incorporates commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components. It can be controlled either manually or through pre-programmed flight control systems.
“The UAV has a length of 9.14m and a wingspan of 8.2m. The dry weight of the aircraft is 1,134kg, while its maximum take-off weight (MTOW) is 2,722kg,” according to Airforce Technology.
The XQ-58A Valkyrie can carry a maximum payload of 544kg. The open mission system architecture allows it to integrate customer-specific payloads according to the mission requirements.