Meet DARPA's Newest X-plane: XRQ-73
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Jun 25, 2024

Meet DARPA's Newest X-plane: XRQ-73

  • The SHEPARD program's hybrid-electric uncrewed aircraft system has its official X-plane designation

The Series Hybrid Electric Propulsion AiRcraft Demonstration program, known as SHEPARD, has received its official X-plane designation: XRQ-73.

SHEPARD is an "X-prime" program, leveraging the series hybrid electric architecture and some of the component technologies from the earlier AFRL/IARPA Great Horned Owl (GHO) project.

"The idea behind a DARPA X-prime program is to take emerging technologies and burn down system-level integration risks to quickly mature a new missionized long endurance aircraft design that can be fielded quickly," said Steve Komadina, SHEPARD program manager. "The SHEPARD program is maturing a specific propulsion architecture and power class as an exemplar of potential benefits for the Department of Defense.”

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The DARPA team includes members from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and our warfighters.

The prime contractor for SHEPARD is Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Aeronautics Systems sector in Redondo Beach, CA. Scaled Composites, LLC is a major supplier, along with Cornerstone Research Group, Inc., Brayton Energy, LLC, PC Krause and Associates, and EaglePicher Technologies, LLC.

The XRQ-73 aircraft will be a Group 3 UAS weighing approximately 1,250 pounds. First flight of the XRQ-73 is expected by year-end 2024.