Drone maker Kratos recently offered the first look at its new Airwolf unmanned aircraft, also sometimes written Air Wolf, which the company describes as a tactical platform intended to perform various military missions. Just as Kratos’ existing UTAP-22 Mako tactical unmanned aircraft is derived from the BQM-167 Skeeter target drone, Air Wolf is based on the smaller MQM-178 Firejet aerial target.
On Aug. 25, 2021, Kratos released a picture, seen at the top of this story, of an Air Wolf drone just prior to launch at a range in Burns Flat, Oklahoma, along with press release regarding that test flight. It is not clear when this test flight occurred or if it was the first successful flight of an Air Wolf drone, though we do know it was the first flight test of any kind at the Burns Flat range. Kratos had previously said it expected to begin flight testing of this unmanned aircraft last year.
The “Air Wolf Tactical Drone System completed a 100 percent successful flight at the recently approved Burns Flat, Oklahoma Range Facility,” the press release said. “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.”
It is also worth noting that Kratos has a manufacturing facility in Oklahoma City, around 95 miles east of Burns Flat.
“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,” Steve Fendley, President of Kratos Unmanned Systems Division, said in the press release. “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, as 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.”
Beyond the mention of the drone’s “artificial intelligence/autonomy system,” Kratos’ press release offers few details about Air Wolf’s general specifications or its capabilities. However, a briefing Kratos gave to investors in January makes clear that this drone is based on the MQM-178, referring to it as “Airwolf (Tactical Firejet).” Another presentation the company gave to members of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce last year also described it as “Airwolf (Tac FJ).”
This is all further reinforced by the fact that the drone in the picture that Kratos released last week is registered as an MQM-178 with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Individuals online had previously been able to determine its U.S. civil registration code, which is N887RZ.
It would not necessarily take much to reconfigure the MQM-178, which is powered by two small JetCat C81 turbojets, for missions beyond that of being a target drone. Firejet, which has an overall length of 10.8 feet and a wingspan of 6.5 feet, can carry around 70 and a half pounds of payload internally, as well as nearly 35 pounds more under each wing and an additional 20 pounds in pods on each wingtip. The drone, which is launched via a catapult system, has a maximum takeoff weight of close to 320 pounds.