Top 5 Cutting-Edge Military Drones in the USAF Today

Military drones are a game-changer in modern conflicts – and they are taking a leading role in warfare.
Military Drones

Military Drones have changed the way higher-risk military operations are conducted and they are set to be co-stars in the military operations of the future.

These impressive unmanned aerial vehicles are capable of flying at high altitude and performing multiple types of missions everywhere in the world.

That’s why they are actively participating in missions around the world – and this is just the beginning!


XQ-58 Valkyrie 

XQ-58-Valkyrie in the dark
U.S. Air Force Research Lab delivers Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie by Tyler Greenlee. Public Domain.

The XQ-58 Valkyrie is a long-range stealth drone manufactured in the US. It is designed to provide an unmanned escort to different military aircraft.

The development of the Valkyrie is in line with the Skyborg Vanguard Program, a USAF program launched to build a low-cost, simple-to-manufacture unmanned vehicle that can act as a wingman for manned aircraft.

This way, bigger and more expensive aircraft will be more protected with the help of the Valkyrie.


It is 29 feet long and 22 feet in wingspan, which makes it small enough for an aircraft. It can be used in surveillance or reconnaissance missions, and it can fly at an altitude of 45,000 feet.

MQ-9 Reaper  

MQ-9-Reaper in the sunset
MQ-9 Reaper by  Haley Stevens. Public Donain.

The MQ 9 Reaper is a multipurpose drone built in the USA by General Atomics. It is designed for long-duration missions worldwide and is one of the most widely used drones in the USAF.

Operated from thousands of miles away, its flight range and weapons systems make it a formidable war machine for the Air Force. The USAF can carry out attacks on targets with a low collateral damage rate. For instance, the U.S. drone was used to strike down Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in 2020.


It is 36 feet long and has a wingspan of 66 feet. It has a maximum take-off weight of 10,500 pounds and a payload capacity of 3,750 pounds. It can fly at an altitude of 50,000 feet, and it cost around $56 million.

MQ-20 Avenger

predator avenger
Test Flag Enterprise integrates autonomy into Orange Flag by Tabatha Arellanor. Public Domain.

The Predator C Avenger is a fast, high-precision drone manufactured in the US. It is currently in service with the USAF, and it has been deployed in Afghanistan.

Its design and speed allow it to increase its survivability in difficult environments. It is 44 feet long and has a wingspan of 66 ft. it has a maximum take-off weight of 18,200 lb and a payload capacity of 3,500 lb. It can fly at an altitude of 50,000 feet and has a range of 20 hours.  


MQ-25 Stingray

mq 25
NORFOLK – A Boeing unmanned MQ-25 aircraft by  Brandon Roberson.

The MQ-25 Stingray is the world’s first operational unmanned aircraft incorporated on an aircraft carrier.

The MQ-25 is an aerial refueling drone manufactured by Boeing in the U.S. It is designed to operate from aircraft carriers and it is used to refuel aircraft such as the F-35 and extend its range in different missions such as surveillance or reconnaissance. It is 51 feet long and 75 feet in wingspan.

RQ-4 Global Hawk 

RQ-4-Global-Hawk in the airport
7RS RQ-4 Global Hawk launch by Ramon Adelan. Public Domain.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a reconnaissance drone built in the USA.  It is designed for real-time imaging in all weather, day and night. RQ-4 Global Hawk can perform long-duration and high-altitude missions providing high-resolution images of large geographic areas.


It is built by Northrop Grumman Corp and it costs about $130 million as it is one of the most sophisticated unmanned aircraft in the United States.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk is 47 feet long and has a wingspan of 130.9 feet. It has a payload capacity of 3,000 lb and it can fly up to 32 hours.

So far, the RQ-4 Global Hawk has been used by the USAF in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. One RQ-4 Global Hawk was shot down in Iran in 2019.


Drones are the future of warfare

Although drones are still far from completely replacing the human element in combat missions, they are increasingly taking on a leading role.

In the near future, many military operations will keep evolving with drones, ensuring the safety of thousands of soldiers and pilots not only in the US but in the entire world.

Featured image credit: Military Drones sun sets over the MQ-9 Reaper by Airman Haley Stevens. Public Domain.


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