AFRL Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) Program

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) – The Air Force Research Laboratory successfully completed the XQ-58A Valkyrie’s sixth flight test and first release from its internal weapons bay, March 26, 2021 at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.

This test, conducted in partnership with Kratos UAS and Area-I, demonstrated the ability to launch an ALTIUS-600 small, unmanned aircraft system (SUAS) from the internal weapons bay of the XQ-58A. Kratos, Area-I and AFRL designed and fabricated the SUAS carriage and developed software to enable release. After successful release of the SUAS, the XQ-58A completed additional test points to expand its demonstrated operating envelope.

“This is the sixth flight of the Valkyrie and the first time the payload bay doors have been opened in flight,” said Alyson Turri, demonstration program manager. “In addition to this first SUAS separation demonstration, the XQ-58A flew higher and faster than previous flights.”

This test further demonstrates the utility of affordable, high performance unmanned air vehicles.



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Yes that is the case though interestingly, these antennas don't appear to be on the aircraft for test #5 (other prototype) which was to be the Gateway One test.


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Continuous Composites (Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, U.S.) announced on April 7 the successful completion of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) two-year Wing Structure Design for Manufacturing (WiSDM) contract through Lockheed Martin (Bethesda, M.D., U.S.) to manufacture a Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft (LCAA) wing. The project focused on a new structural design paradigm, when coupled with commensurate materials and manufacturing, to substantially reduce costs and lead times for attritable airframe structures. Continuous Composites says its patented Continuous Fiber 3D Printing (CF3D) technology successfully printed the structural carbon fiber spars of the wing assembly. Structural performance was demonstrated when the completed wing box was statically tested and achieved 160% design limit load (DLL) before the compression skin buckled. The spars did not fail.

“The successful work with Continuous Composites and AFRL’s focus on CF3D for this project not only advances new 3D printing technology but also offers the potential for aerospace-grade composite printing in high-performance industries,” says John Scarcello, senior manager, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. “We recognize this process is paving the way for broader applications within both defense and commercial applications, and Lockheed Martin plans to be part of that future of advanced manufacturing.”

How it works:


“We are combining the power of composite materials with a 3D printing process using advanced robotics,” says Continuous Composites CEO Tyler Alvarado. The company has trademarked its Continuous Fiber 3D Printing as CF3D. “CF3D impregnates the fiber within the head and cures immediately after material deposition,” he explains. “We are not limited to printing via 2D slices so we can take full advantage of the anisotropic properties of composite materials by discretely orienting fibers in every direction.”

I'm looking into it from Japan.
I recently found a slide from reater Oklahoma City Chamber Economic Development
website that I'd like to share!!!
I've never heard of 2nd Full up Production Line (XQ-58A Valkyrie) before!

Container Sytem?
Have models been shown at exhibitions in the past?

XQ-58 RailLauncher
Not a launcher published on the 5D systems website??

and Timeline!!!
25% of F-35 operational cost per hour for the new stealthy low cost attritable red air trainer (around 8000$/h).

“Right now, … we cannot generate enough adversary air to really … stress” the Air Force’s fifth-generation combat aviators [, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mark D. Kelly said at an industry conference Aug. 3], because the cost per flying hour is prohibitive. What would be a “low-cost” alternative? Anything that costs “a dollar less than what I’d be putting up” of a manned nature, he added.

But “there are some solutions and promising technologies out there where I could essentially put up a low-observable and jamming platform with a significant amount of endurance,” at “roughly 25 percent of what it would cost me for a manned” adversary, he said. “That, to me, is ‘low cost.’”

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Raytheon develops a light weight, low cost, air cooled AESA for attritable aircraft:

Raytheon’s yet-to-be-named compact AESA radar weighs about 59kg (130lb), about one third as much as radars on sale currently, says Dick Sandfier, strategic pursuits and business creation capture executive at Raytheon Intelligence and Space. The radar is roughly 71cm (28in) by 37cm and is air cooled.
Radars that use gallium nitride transistors – the subcomponent upon which Raytheon’s compact AESA is based – are able to operate at higher temperatures than those using conventional gallium arsenide components. That allows the amount of electric power pumped into the AESA’s radio transmitters to be increased.

Gallium nitride enables AESA radars to “emit five times the radio frequency power of previous technologies”, says Raytheon. “For radars, that means better search capability and less power consumption, all at a smaller size.”

That part that you have circled is not a lashing point but what earlier appeared to be an antenna is indeed a tie down point. I realized earlier when I tweeted the photo. These two are different things and neither is an antenna.
P&W thinks it can consolidate the TJ-150’s number of parts from 400 to about half a dozen. It figures the process will cut the engine’s cost in half.

Using a 3D printer – instead of subcontracting to an outside machine shop – also saves time. “Right now, if we want to do an iteration, we’ve got hard tooling that’s about a 12-month lead time,” Stagney says. “If we can do additive, we can eliminate that lead time and print new configurations in a couple of weeks.”

3D-printed rotating parts for the TJ-150 “really push the boundaries of our additive technology”, says Stagney. “Rotating parts are [the] most difficult because of the high stresses and dynamics those parts experience.”

GatorWorks hopes to fire up the 3D-printed TJ-150 by the end of the year.

“If it doesn’t work, well, we’ll do another sprint,” Stagney says.

DARPA, NGA transition novel optics technology to fieldable prototypes
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Oct 28, 2021

ICES is exploiting discoveries made under EXTREME to enable mounting multifunction sensors on low-cost platforms, such as UAS, to be deployed in contested environments. These smaller platforms have more stringent volume constraints and weight restrictions than legacy platforms, so adding a new sensor usually requires removing an existing one. The introduction of compact metalenses and planar optics for EO/IR capabilities disrupts the trade space, potentially enabling multiple sensors on a single platform, thus increasing capability.
Materials with novel optical properties developed under DARPA's Extreme Optics and Imaging (EXTREME) program are providing new capabilities for government and military imaging systems. EXTREME, a basic research program in DARPA's Defense Sciences Office, successfully developed new optical components, devices, systems, architectures, and design tools using engineered optical materials, or metamaterials.
Metamaterials are composed of unit cells that are much smaller than the operating wavelength, allowing for greater manipulation of light. Early examples of metamaterials were used to design and build multifunctional elements that seemingly defied standard "laws" of reflection and refraction.
These were limited in efficiencies and in sizes less than a millimeter, prohibiting their integration into optical systems. EXTREME addressed these challenges by improving efficiencies of lenses based on metamaterials, expanded their apertures to centimeter-scale, developed methods to reduce the effect of optical aberrations, and explored new optical design space and associated tradeoffs in size, weight, and power (SWaP) afforded by such metalenses.
The program kicked off in 2016 with multiple performers developing centimeter-scale metamaterials-based optics (metaoptics) and tools to design them. The program was soon able to enable revolutionary improvement in SWaP characteristics of traditional optical systems as well as allow for multiple imaging applications from a single lens.
In 2018, DARPA partnered with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's Research Directorate to transition meta-optics concepts to unmanned aerial systems' (UAS) optical systems. This NGA Metalenses program funded the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) for multi-centimeter meta-optics development and characterization, the Naval Research Laboratory for volumetric 3D metamaterial imaging capabilities, and Sandia National Laboratories for large-scale metalens modeling and optimization.
"Through the NGA effort, AFRL developed unique capabilities using EXTREME technologies to characterize the optical performance of novel meta-optics and developed new insights into how they could be integrated into a full imaging system," said Rohith Chandrasekar, program manager in DARPA's Defense Sciences Office.
"This work was also supported by Sandia's MIRAGE tool, which is a first-of-its-kind capability developed under DARPA EXTREME and NGA Metalenses programs, that exploits symmetries to enable large-scale metalens design and optimization to meet performance metrics."
The above-mentioned EXTREME technologies are now transitioning from NGA to AFRL under its Seedlings for Disruptive Capabilities Program (SDCP). Through SDCP, AFRL directorates partner with industry to answer critical needs of the Air Force Futures Strategy. EXTREME technologies are being employed in several SDCP projects: Integrated Compact Electro-Optic (EO)/Infrared (IR) Systems (ICES); the XQ-58 Valkyrie experimental stealthy unmanned combat aerial vehicle; and the Air Launched Off-Board Operations (ALOBO) program, a tube-launched UAS.
ICES is exploiting discoveries made under EXTREME to enable mounting multifunction sensors on low-cost platforms, such as UAS, to be deployed in contested environments. These smaller platforms have more stringent volume constraints and weight restrictions than legacy platforms, so adding a new sensor usually requires removing an existing one. The introduction of compact metalenses and planar optics for EO/IR capabilities disrupts the trade space, potentially enabling multiple sensors on a single platform, thus increasing capability.
AFRL is relying on EXTREME technology to modify the EO/IR systems on two developmental platforms: the XQ-58 and ALOBO. For the XQ-58, AFRL is looking to reduce the volume of existing sensors to make room for additional sensors. For ALOBO, AFRL is modifying the tube-launch compatible gimbal system. Advances in optics by DARPA and NGA allow AFRL to realize new trade space for the gimbal with either 10x reduction in SWaP while maintaining current performance or 4x improvement in resolution at current SWaP requirements.
"Our close partnership with DARPA and the performers on the EXTREME program has enabled us to rapidly mature and demonstrate new technology for optical systems, which increases imaging system performance to address future system needs where conventional optics cannot meet performance or cost requirements," said Paul Fleitz, ALOBO team lead in AFRL's Aerospace Systems Directorate.
"Transitioning this technology and design tools developed under the EXTREME program to AFRL SDCP programs has dramatically accelerated the development and demonstration of this technology and increased the impact of the development program."
EXTREME is a critical example of a successful partnership between DARPA, NGA, and AFRL to provide rapid transition from basic research to fieldable next-generation technology to support the warfighter.

Kratos Awarded New U.S. Air Force Program of $17.6 Million to Develop and Test Jet UAS for Manned-Unmanned Teaming
SAN DIEGO, Oct. 26, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. (NASDAQ:KTOS), a leading National Security Solutions provider, announced today that Kratos Unmanned Systems Division (KUSD) has been awarded a $17,677,612, 12-month cost plus fixed-fee contract to design and develop an Off Board Sensing Station (OBSS) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) in support of Air Force Research Laboratory’s Autonomous Collaborative Platforms (ACP) technology maturation portfolio. Work under the program award will be performed at secure Kratos engineering and technology facilities located in Texas, California, and Oklahoma over the next 12 months.

Will a new demonstrator be developed using XQ-58 or UTAP-22?

Autonomous aircraft testing arrives​

  • Published Nov. 9, 2022
The 96th Test Wing acquired its newest aircraft, and along with it, a leading-edge experimentation effort last month.

The 40th Flight Test Squadron took possession of the first of two government-owned Kratos XQ‑58A Valkyrie aircraft. The Valkyrie is a low-cost, high-performance uncrewed air vehicle. It is rocket-launched off a rail system and is controlled from a ground station or airborne fighter. An onboard computer system is capable determining the best flight path and throttle settings to comply with commands.

The Autonomous Aircraft Experimentation team is using the 30-foot long XQ-58A and Eglin range for developmental ground and flight testing.

Because military ownership of the XQ-58A is new, much of the aircraft’s infrastructure and logistics have to be created from the ground up and will be recorded, according to Maj. John Nygard, 40th FLTS AAx team lead.

“When you combine the XQ-58A with the Eglin Range infrastructure, you get an uncrewed aircraft that enables real, open-air test of flight autonomy software capabilities while also proving out the resource requirements that could be used for future combat collaborative aircraft,” Nygard said.

The AAx team will test autonomous aircraft in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation office.

“The data generated during previous tests, along with feedback provided from our user community, show that in order to rapidly develop and mature tactical autonomy on an appropriate timeline, investment in, and utilization of, appropriate military range resources is required,” said Matthew Niemiec, AFRL autonomous aircraft experimentation portfolio lead.

Military range resources are a major reason XQ-58A testing found a home at Eglin. The Eglin Range communications support infrastructure will allow engineers at the ground station in the Central Control Facility to monitor the vehicle’s performance during flight. Additionally, autonomous aircraft operations, airspace, and safety processes have been developed to enable safe and effective flight testing for uncrewed air vehicles. The first flight is scheduled later this month.

Nygard described this new test as time-critical, with a lot to get done in a short amount of time.

“The goal by fall 2023 is to leverage this platform for experimentation with crewed-uncrewed teaming display solutions” said Nygard.

Additionally, the team is building out a data-storage and simulation environment to capture operator feedback and integrate their inputs into the autonomy software development process. The XQ-58A could host a variety of flight autonomy software solutions that were first tested in the simulator, including those from the Skyborg Autonomy Control System and others provided by third-party government and industry partners.

Niemiec said AFRL is working with multiple industry partners to integrate leading-edge autonomy capabilities onto the XQ-58A.

“The simulation investment enables us to focus flight test efforts of XQ-58A on developing the process to deliver autonomy software capable of accomplishing operator-defined missions to the warfighter,” he said.


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YPG is a hopping place.
I was not expecting something as small as a Valkyrie to be able to carry all the jamming gear.

Anyone willing to guess how much mission essential systems would cost?
I'm guessing $10mil or more, but how much is one of those SAR radar pods for a Reaper? How much is a Sniper targeting pod?

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