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US Marine Corps XQ-58A Valkyrie tactical UAV completes second flight.

| Defense News Aerospace 2024

On February 23, 2024, the Marine Corps’ XQ-58A Valkyrie, an advanced, cost-effective tactical unmanned aerial vehicle, successfully executed its second test flight at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. This drone serves as a pivotal experimental platform for the Marine Corps, facilitating the exploration of cutting-edge technologies and innovative operational concepts that bolster the capabilities of the Marine Air Ground Task Force.
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US Marine Corps XQ 58A Valkyrie tactical UAV completes second flightA U.S. Marine Corps XQ-58A Valkyrie tactical UAV during its second test flight at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Feb. 23, 2023 (Picture source: U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. John McRell)

Among its focal areas are autonomous operations and the integration of unmanned systems with manned aircraft. The ongoing trials with the XQ-58 are part of the Department of Defense’s Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve program, aimed at fast-tracking the deployment of new solutions across the joint military spectrum.

The recent flight marks a significant step forward in the realization of Project Eagle, a comprehensive plan aimed at revitalizing Marine Corps aviation in alignment with the broader objectives of Force Design modernization. Project Eagle, along with other research initiatives, will shape the development of essential technologies and strategies for future combat scenarios projected up to the year 2040.

The success of the test flight was made possible through the concerted efforts of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab and the Cunningham Group, a specialized team within the Deputy Commandant for Aviation’s office, dedicated to the strategic implementation of Project Eagle. This project benefits from the collective expertise and resources of several Department of Defense entities, including the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, the 40th Flight Test Squadron, the 96th Test Wing of the U.S. Air Force, the Naval Air Systems Command, and the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division’s AIRWorks.

Lt. Col. Bradley Buick, a key figure in the Cunningham Group, emphasized the necessity for new aviation assets that are capable of operating in challenging conditions and can engage adversaries on terms favorable to U.S. forces. The collaboration with naval and other joint forces underscores a commitment to shared innovation and the evolution of Marine aviation to meet the demands of future conflicts.

Lt. Col. Gavin Robillard highlighted the importance of these test flights to Project Eagle, noting their role in guiding the next iteration of the Marine Aviation Plan and enhancing support for the Marine Air Ground Task Force.

The XQ-58A Valkyrie is slated for a total of six test flights that will scrutinize its potential to autonomously support manned aircraft like the USMC F-35B Lightning II and explore the feasibility of AI-driven platforms to bolster combat air patrols. Looking ahead, the XQ-58A is expected to significantly contribute to the Marine Air Ground Task Force by offering capabilities ranging from electronic warfare to direct engagement and support in lethal operations. These efforts are integral to broader service-level research initiatives, including the development of the Penetrating Affordable Autonomous Collaborative Killer Portfolio.

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