Kratos Defense, a manufacturer of military tactical and training drones, expanded its footprint in Oklahoma City.
The San Diego-based defense contractor increased the size of its operation here by 50%, and now uses over 150,000 square feet at the Will Rogers Business Park. Steve Fendley, president of Kratos’ unmanned systems division, said the expansion will be used for manufacturing and integration of the XQ-58 Valkyrie tactical aircraft and two other classified projects.
The Valkyrie is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that operates much like a fighter aircraft. It is designed to fly in tandem with a crewed fighter jet as a “loyal wingman.” Kratos pitched the aircraft for the U.S. Air Force’s $400 million Skyborg program, and is competing against legacy contractors General Atomics, Boeing and Northrop Grumman to fill the first orders.
Kratos first opened its Oklahoma City facility in 2018, using the wide, open space at Will Rogers Business Park to manufacture its “target” drones, which are advanced UAVs that can be programmed to mimic hostile aircraft and missiles. The company added Valkyrie production last year after announcing all of its tactical drones would be built in Oklahoma.
Some testing takes place in Oklahoma, and Kratos expressed interest in using the state-owned Clinton-Sherman Airport near Burns Flat for some of its operations. Technicians already conduct final engine tests at the production facility before packing the drones into a crate and shipping them off to customers.
Fendley said Kratos hired 50 employees this year and plans to add another 50 to 100 next year.
To compete with the larger, more well-known defense contractors for the Skyborg project, Fendley said Kratos focuses on affordability and building to cost. Providing low-cost platforms has been a cornerstone of its target drone business and has enabled Kratos to compete with tactical drones.
“It’s really what has allowed us to move so rapidly and so effectively into that area and be competitive against tier-one (prime contractors),” said Fendley. “I believe it’s a whole philosophy difference.”