It was just the third time the 28-foot-long Valkyrie unmanned aerial vehicle took to the skies, but “high surface winds” at the test range in Yuma, Arizona, caused some damage to the aircraft, including “a malfunction of the vehicle’s provisional flight test recovery system [that] resulted in a mishap after landing which damaged the aircraft,” according to an Air Force statement Thursday.
No estimate was given for how long the repairs will take or when the fourth flight will be.
“We continue to learn about this aircraft and the potential the technology can offer to the warfighter,” Maj. Gen. William Cooley, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, said in the statement. “This third flight successfully completed its objectives and expanded the envelope from the first two flights. We have gathered a great deal of valuable data from the flight and will even learn from this mishap. Ultimately, that is the objective of any experiment, and we’re pleased with the progress of the Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program.”
The program aims at providing Air Force pilots with a cheap unmanned attack aircraft that is both disposable but also reliable. The service hopes to have the transonic drone one day governed by the terrifyingly-named “Skyborg” artificial intelligence system. Assigned to a specific manned aircraft in the mission, the Valkyrie might be expected to do anything from fly ahead and scout out terrain to troubleshoot problems on the parent aircraft’s computer, or even absorb incoming enemy fire directed at the parent aircraft, The Verge noted.
The UAV can carry its own weapons, too, with eight hardpoints but a low maximum weight of 550 pounds, according to Military Factory. It flew for the first time this past March, Sputnik reported. The plane is built by Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, a defense firm that specializes in futuristic weaponry like the US Navy’s Laser Weapon System (LaWS).
Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, told Military.com at the Paris Air Show in June, shortly after the Valkyrie’s second flight, that the service hopes to have 20 to 30 of the UAVs available for pairing with manned fighters in the next three years.