Marine Corps Valkyrie completes second successful mission at Eglin

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EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The Marine Corps’ XQ-58A Valkyrie, an autonomous, low-cost tactical unmanned air vehicle, successfully completed its second test flight Feb. 23, 2024 at Eglin.

The successful flight is a key milestone in implementing Project Eagle, the service’s aviation modernization strategy in support of broader Force Design modernization efforts. The XQ-58A and other Project Eagle research and experimentation platforms will inform capabilities needed in future conflicts out to 2040. 

“The future battlespace demands new aviation platforms that embrace the austere environment and bring the fight to the enemy at a place of our choosing,” said Lt. Col. Bradley Buick, future capabilities officer for the Cunningham Group, an internal working group responsible for planning and implementing Project Eagle.

Both Marine Corps’ tests launched from Eglin’s special test flight facility.  The 40th Flight Test Squadron engineers help facilitate and support both the Air Force and Marine Corps’ XQ-58A testing here at Eglin. 

The XQ-58A provides the Marine Corps with a testbed platform for developing technologies and new concepts in support of the Marine Air Ground Task Force, such as autonomous flight and unmanned teaming with crewed aircraft.

Future test flights of the Marine Corps XQ-58A Valkyrie play an integral role in the Marine Corps’ efforts to modernize and enhance capabilities in a rapidly evolving security environment. The XQ-58A has a total of six planned test flights, which will evaluate the effectiveness of autonomous electronic support to crewed platforms like the USMC F-35B Lightning II and the potential for AI-enabled platforms to augment combat air patrols.

“AI testing requires combining new and traditional test and evaluation techniques.  The team has a lot of lessons learned that will be used to inform future programs,” said Ryan Bowers, 40th FLTS engineer about each new XQ-58 launch at Eglin. 

The DoD is committed to the responsible employment of AI. To achieve responsible use of AI requires teaming of developers and users of AI-enabled autonomy working in collaboration with acquisition specialists.

 “AI will be a critical element to future warfighting and the speed at which we’re going to have to understand the operational picture and make decisions,” said Brig. Gen. Scott Cain, Air Force Research Lab commander. “AI, autonomous operations, and human-machine teaming continue to evolve at an unprecedented rate, and we need the coordinated efforts of our government, academia, and industry partners to keep pace.”