The XQ-58 Valkyrie drone has a new technology for getting itself airborne. Instead of the usual static launcher and rocket boosters, it can now use a traditional runway thanks to its trolley wheels. This new method lets the XQ-58 take off with higher fuel levels or larger payloads while still keeping its ability to launch independently of runways if needed.

Advantages of the New Trolley System

The XQ-58 typically takes off using an expendable rocket booster and ground launcher. The drone doesn’t have any landing gear and lands with its parachute recovery system, which uses inflatable airbags to cushion its descent. With the latest trolley system, the Valkyrie can still land via parachute after the trolley detaches during takeoff.

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U.S. Air Force Research Lab delivers Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (DVIDS)

Using a conventional runway, the XQ-58 can lift off with a higher weight, leading to more sensors, weapons, and fuel. This increase benefits fuel and payload capacity and provides a significant advantage in range and payload.

Future Prospects and Cost Reduction

The XQ-58 boasts a 6,000-pound maximum launch weight. It can also reach altitudes of up to 45,000 feet and has a range of 3,000 miles. It carries weapons in the internal centerline bay lodged in its main core and on wing hard points. Its modular design allows easy configuration for different missions, such as communications relay and electronic warfare.

Kratos is developing the XQ-58’s performance, including the heavier Block 2 version and potentially larger variants that benefit from the new technology. The configuration impacts cost, with current price evaluations hovering around $5 to $6 million. Kratos aims to lower this to around $2 million, making the drone price comparable to many expendable missiles.

The new launch method could be quite attractive to the U.S. Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) drone program, which favors higher-performance designs.

Kratos hasn’t been publicly involved in the CCA effort. However, the Air Force heavily uses the Valkyrie for related research and testing.

Maximizing Utility for Mission Success

This new launch system allows the XQ-58 to maximize its internal and external carriage capabilities.

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A U.S. Marine Corps XQ-58A Valkyrie, a highly autonomous, low-cost tactical unmanned air vehicle, conducts its second test flight with two U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft assigned to 33rd Fighter Wing, 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Feb. 23, 2023. (DVIDS)

This will then increase its utility for specific missions. More details about the KTLS and the third launch option for the XQ-58 are still to come, but this new trolley system is another example of Kratos’ commitment to enhancing Valkyrie’s performance and capabilities.

Boosting US Military Dominance

The introduction of the Kratos Trolley Launch System (KTLS) for the XQ-58 Valkyrie drone significantly boosts the U.S. military’s operational capabilities. By enabling the Valkyrie to take off from conventional runways, the military gains greater flexibility in deploying these drones from a wider range of locations, including those with limited infrastructure.

This advancement allows for heavier payloads and extended mission durations, enhancing the drone’s effectiveness in various operational scenarios. Such capabilities ensure the U.S. military can maintain a strategic edge, adapting quickly to changing battlefield conditions and mission requirements.

Looking ahead, the U.S. military plans to integrate this new launch system into its broader strategy for unmanned aerial operations. This includes exploring the full potential of the Valkyrie’s modular design to support a variety of missions, ranging from electronic warfare to reconnaissance and strike operations.

Additionally, ongoing efforts to reduce costs and enhance the performance of the XQ-58 will likely make these drones a staple in future military operations. As technology evolves, the military will continue to seek innovative solutions like the KTLS to ensure that its drone fleet remains versatile, cost-effective, and capable of meeting the demands of modern warfare.


Disclaimer: SOFREP utilizes AI for image generation and article research. Occasionally, it’s like handing a chimpanzee the keys to your liquor cabinet. It’s not always perfect and if a mistake is made, we own up to it full stop. In a world where information comes at us in tidal waves, it is an important tool that helps us sift through the brass for live rounds.