Hoeven: Collaborative Combat Aircraft Will Help Fill Gaps in U.S. Warfighting Capabilities, Create Unmatched Operational Flexibility

Senator Reviews Kratos Valkyrie Following Test Flight; Secured $392 Million for, & Working to Advance Partnerships under, CCA Initiative

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – At GrandSky today, Senator John Hoeven reviewed the Valkyrie unmanned aerial system (UAS), an Autonomous Collaborative Platform (ACP) / Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) developed and manufactured by Kratos Defense & Security Solutions. Today’s meeting follows a Sunday test flight of the Valkyrie’s new capabilities, which Kratos has been developing in partnership with GrandSky. This was the first such test in North Dakota for the XQ-58A Valkyrie, which:

  • Was developed by Kratos with the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) to reduce the costs of producing tactical unmanned aircraft.
  • Is a high-performance, stealthy, survivable, long-range, tactical unmanned aircraft that can operate in concert with manned aircraft, as a solo platform or in a UAS swarm.
  • Can be launched in three different modes, including using a full runway, a short runway or a vertical takeoff.
    • Kratos is currently testing enhanced launch capabilities at GrandSky.
  • Can be equipped with a mission-customizable mix of sensors, weapons and other tactical systems.
  • Has capabilities that create complex challenges for U.S. adversaries while delivering maximum operational flexibility and utility to the U.S. warfighter.

Hoeven worked to bring Kratos to GrandSky, having made the case to President and CEO Eric DeMarco, along with other Kratos officials, in recent years. The senator stressed that GrandSky gives the company the opportunity to fly at lower cost and with greater schedule flexibility than what is available through a standard Defense Department range. This comes as part of Hoeven’s broader efforts as a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee to advance the CCA initiative at the U.S. Air Force (USAF), having secured $392 million for the effort in Fiscal Year (FY) 2024. In April, the USAF announced contract awards to Anduril and General Atomics for the first iteration of CCA, with companies like Kratos expected to provide the next iteration of CCA airframes.

            “We built GrandSky precisely for the kind of work that Kratos is now undertaking with the Valkyrie. This one-of-a-kind facility provides the tools, infrastructure and expertise needed for UAS operations, training, research, development and testing across the board, including the Air Force’s highest priority for unmanned aircraft – the development of CCA capabilities,” said Hoeven. “The Valkyrie and similar CCA aircraft can undertake an incredible range of missions, with multiple options for takeoff, customizable equipment sets and the ability to operate solo, alongside manned aircraft or in UAS swarms. Such capabilities will provide unparalleled operational flexibility, ensuring we can overcome our adversaries in any number of scenarios. That’s what the funding we provided this year will help provide, and we will continue to support this initiative in the coming years.”

Advancing CCA Capabilities

CCA is a multi-pronged Air Force initiative to develop large quantities of lower-cost, highly autonomous UAS to fly interoperably with fighter planes and a range of next-generation aircraft. The CCA concept is part of USAF’s wider Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program that envisions a system-of-systems approach with fighter aircraft, weapons, sensors and battle management systems. Under the contracts awarded to Anduril and General Atomics, the companies will build and test prototypes of their respective CCA designs. The Air Force expects to field a fully operational CCA capability before 2030.

Space Dynamics Laboratory’s (SDL) Dark Swarm Project


The CCA initiative also aligns with a project Hoeven worked to fund between SDL, a Utah-based University-Affiliated Research Center (UARC), and the University of North Dakota (UND). Specifically, SDL came to North Dakota to utilize local expertise for a Naval Research Laboratory project on unmanned aircraft swarms. Hoeven secured $6 million for the project in FY24, bringing the total project funding to $23 million since FY21.

  • SDL is working to learn how a swarm of UAS can conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions in an environment where the enemy is attempting to deny normal communications.
  • North Dakota is critical to this five-year effort, as it offers airspace and UAS expertise that is not available anywhere else in the U.S.
  • SDL is working with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to gain the required Federal Aviation Administration approvals, coordinating with Grand Sky and Grand Forks Air Force Base to develop its testing and demonstration program and working with UND on algorithms that help coordinate swarm activities.