Air Force Completes First Uncrewed Combat Aircraft Test Flight

  • Air Force lab tested AI algorithm in combat aircraft flight
  • XQ-58A Valkyrie aircraft by Kratos flew three-hour mission

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The US Air Force has completed its first flight with an uncrewed combat aircraft using artificial intelligence, according to the Department of Defense.

The XQ-58A Valkyrie combat aircraft by Kratos Defense and Security Solutions led a three-hour simulated combat mission at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio on July 25.

The AI-led flight was a product of an Air Force Research Laboratory effort, the Skyborg Vanguard program, which uses an autonomous aircraft teaming architecture and integrates multiple technology components. Skybourg is building a system that is portable and modular—fitting into multiple aircraft platforms.

The XQ-58A Valkyrie is runway independent, meaning it can operate without a takeoff or landing roll. It is rocket-launched from the ground and recoverable by parachute.

The algorithms used by the aircraft were developed by AFRL’s Autonomous Air Combat Operations team and underwent millions of hours of software simulations, missions with General Dynamics’ X-62 VISTA simulator aircraft, real-time simulations of the Valkyrie hardware and ground test operations.

The algorithm and sensors allow the aircraft’s autonomy to make decisions based on rules of engagement set by humans. Skybourg says it does not aim to replace human pilots but to provide situational awareness and survivability data to support decision-making during combat.

AFRL is the Air Force’s primary scientific research and development center.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patty Nieberg in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Amanda H. Allen at; Michaela Ross at

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