xq-58 valkyrie

US launches ambitious AI-controlled XQ-58 Valkyrie drone program in response to Chinese pressure

  • XQ-58 Valkyrie drones are driving the modernization of the US air arsenal amid global tensions.
  • These next-generation drones offer versatility and responsiveness at a much more affordable cost compared to conventional aircraft.
  • The Valkyries’ adaptable functionality makes them essential tools beyond combat, with a range of tasks spanning from escort to surveillance and resupply.

In a bold attempt to maintain its military dominance amid rising tensions with China, the Pentagon has unveiled a novel program aimed at boosting the manufacturing of next-generation drones.

The XQ-58 Valkyrie drones, designed by Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, stand as the centerpiece of this initiative, destined to play a fundamental role in the future of US air defense.

And, due to China’s increasing acquisition of conventional weapons, it has urged the Pentagon to take a proactive approach to modernize its arsenal.

Along with the iconic F-22 and F-35 fighter jets, which have been pillars of the United States’ air dominance, the ambitious XQ-58 Valkyrie program is now presented.

These next-generation drones, with significantly lower operating costs, will not only improve tactical flexibility but also enable more effective response to evolving threats.

Advanced technology with economic efficiency

With a unit price close to 3 million dollars, the XQ-58 Valkyrie drones present an affordable alternative in contrast to the F-22 and F-35, which have costs of 143 and 75 million dollars respectively.

This economic efficiency approach will enable the United States to build a sizable fleet of Valkyries, thereby strengthening its defensive capabilities.

At the same time, their adaptable functionality makes them versatile tools for various missions. Initially conceived as stealth escort aircraft for the F-22 and F-35, their usefulness expands to encompass surveillance, resupply and combat tasks against groups of enemy aircraft.

This versatility ensures that the Valkyries become essential elements of the US defense arsenal.

Demonstration at the Air Force Base

xq-58 valkyrie
Source: Elgin Air Force Base

During a three-hour demonstration at Elgin Air Force Base, the drone demonstrated its ability to operate autonomously and safely.


“It’s a very strange feeling. I’m flying next to something that’s making decisions of its own. And it’s not a human brain.”

Major Ross Elder of the US Air Force told The New York Times.

Guaranteed human control

Although AI plays a crucial role in the safe and efficient operation of these drones, the human element remains essential to making critical decisions. The Pentagon has emphasized that these will remain under the control of human pilots and commanders.

Towards the approval of the XQ-58 Valkyrie program

Execution of the XQ-58 Valkyrie program ultimately depends on the Department of Defense’s budget approval by Congress for the next fiscal year.

With an initial outlay estimated at $3.3 billion in 2024, the Air Force hopes to advance the construction and fielding of this innovative fleet of drones.

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