The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Kratos Defense and Security [KTOS] completed the fourth of five planned tests of the XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator vehicle this week, the first test following a mishap last October, the laboratory said Jan. 24.

The Valkyrie’s Jan. 23 flight at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, met all of the desired test objectives and evaluators expanded the test envelope beyond prior demonstrations before the aircraft safely landed, said Michael Wipperman, XQ-58A program manager, in a Friday release.

The aircraft flew at a higher altitude, gathering data such as vehicle response to temperature and vibration in an operational environment that more closely matched that of real-world missions, the release said.

The fifth and currently final test flight for the Valkyrie is expected later this calendar year. The aircraft completed two successful flights in March and June 2019 at Yuma Proving Ground, but a third test flight in October in which the Valkyrie successfully performed a 90-minute flight ended in a mishap due to high winds and equipment malfunction and the aircraft suffered damage (Defense Daily, Jan. 10). Recommendations were taken and approved before the January test, officials said.

“Given that we have overcome these challenges, we have confidence that the aircraft can continue its progression into flying in more representative conditions,” Wipperman said.

The XQ-58A was developed as part of AFRL’s low cost attritable aircraft technology portfolio and has been a key staple of the Air Force’s “Skyborg” initiative to build and control AI-driven low-cost aircraft for use in congested airspace. Senior service officials have identified Skyborg as one of the Air Force’s first three “vanguard” programs, or efforts intended to quickly demonstrate the viability of emerging technologies (Defense Daily, Nov. 21, 2019).