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Kratos’ New Air Wolf Tactical Drone: The U.S. Military’s Next Super Weapon?

It’s the companies smallest, most light-weight drone yet.

What We Know

Kratos, the drone maker of several notable unmanned aerial vehicles, announced the first flight of their newest drone, which the company named the Air Wolf Tactical Drone System, a lightweight drone smaller than the company’s other drone offerings. 

The new drone “completed a 100 percent successful flight at the recently approved Burns Flat, Oklahoma Range Facility, the Kratos company news release announcing the flight stated. “The Kratos Air Wolf Mission, which was the inaugural flight at the Burns Flat Range location, included multiple new payloads carried by the Air Wolf Drone, including a proprietary Kratos artificial intelligence/autonomy system, which has been developed by Kratos specifically for high performance, jet drone aircraft.”

The company also released a single photo of the Air Wolf’s rear aspect before launch, along with the statement.

The Air Wolf appears to be similar to Krato’s MQM-178 Firejet, the company’s smallest unmanned aerial target. Kratos has built an unmanned tactical aircraft from a target drone before: their UTAP-22 Mako came from the company’s BQM-167 target drone, a visually similar platform.

The MQM-178 and the new Air Wolf are launched using a catapult system that rapidly accelerates the aerial vehicle before launch. A video of an MQM-178 launch can be seen here and is worth the watch.

Valkyrie

Kratos’ most well-known airframe is the XQ-58A Valkyrie, a stealthy unmanned combat vehicle developed within the United States Air Force Low-Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator program. The stealthy drone has partnered with the United States military for several projects and is also involved in the Air Force Skyborg program, which seeks autonomous, artificially intelligent “loyal wingman” drones alongside manned fighters.

“This successful Air Wolf flight at the recently approved Burns Flat Range facility is the latest example of the teaming approach Kratos routinely takes with its partners at the local, state and federal government levels with the objective of accelerating technology development and a focus on science, technology, engineering, and math advancement,” the President of Kratos Unmanned Systems Division explained.

Postscript

“The Air Wolf drone system that successfully flew today demonstrated a number of new mission systems which we believe are operationally and tactically relevant for Kratos’ government customer set,” the Kratos Air Wolf statement reads. “Our proven commercial development approach and robust digital engineering, modeling and simulation capabilities, and affordability-focused processes continue to successfully rapidly deliver affordable high performance jet aircraft, not just models, surrogates, or renditions.”

Though perhaps not as impressive as the stealthy Valkyrie, the Air Wolf expands the company’s portfolio of unmanned aerial vehicles on the cheap and may help Kratos further integrate with the United States military.

Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and Defense Writer based in Europe. He lives in Berlin and covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society.

Written By

Caleb Larson, a defense journalist based in Europe and holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics and culture.

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