‘Skyborg’ could let F-35 and F-15 fighter jets control their own companion drones

The US Air Force UU He hopes that the XQ58-A Valkyrie drone wingman can 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 "loyal wingman", imagined as a low-cost platform that would be controlled by a parent aircraft to perform a variety of tasks, such as flying forward to explore the terrain, or Absorb enemy fire in case they are attacked.

It is said that the Air Force is talking to the defense manufacturers Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which manufactures combat aircraft, about the integration of the platforms. Will Roper, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics, told Defense News that an upcoming update of the F-35 represents a "wonderful opportunity" to match the prototype of the drone. "We could also have the opportunity to do this as part of F-15EX," he added. The pairing of drones is not expected to occur in the near future: first the F-35 must be updated, and the XQ58-A Valkyrie has only completed the first of five test flights.

Reports also note that Roper informed lawmakers that the Valkyrie would be part of a larger artificial intelligence program called Skyborg, that, apart from a terrible name: it was designed to help the pilots as a kind of on-board assistant, and has been compared to something similar to the R2-D2 of the Star Wars movies .

Earlier this spring, the Air Force successfully tested the jet propulsion drone for the first time at the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona. The Valkyrie XQ58-A can carry a small payload of bombs and comes with a range of 2,500 miles, although it can not fly as fast as the plane for which it is designed. When the Air Force began testing the Valkyrie, it was not yet clear with which aircraft it could be paired with . A key attraction for the vehicle is that it would be cheap to produce it in large quantities: it will apparently cost "a couple of million dollars" each, which is extremely cheap compared to a larger fighter aircraft.

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