The design has been in the works at least since 2019 and Kratos is already in discussions with a customer for a possible contract next year.
Few days ago, Kratos unveiled for the first time a rendering of its new Thanatos UAV design. The image was part of the press release for the company’s third quarter 2023 financial results, however no other details were provided about this new design. Eric DeMarco, Kratos’ President and CEO, only briefly mentioned Thanatos while describing plans for next year.
“Based on recent large new program opportunities we are pursuing, we are now planning on certain additional investments in 2024, including in the tactical drone and satellite areas, in order to position the Company for potentially even greater growth in 2025 and beyond,” said DeMarco. “Among the new opportunities we are pursuing, we are in discussions with a customer and hope to be under contract next year related to certain other Kratos tactical drone systems, including Thanatos”.
While not confirmed, the customer could possibly be the U.S. Air Force, as the rendering shows both the Air Force and Kratos markings on the unmanned aircraft, similarly to other design that were pitched by Kratos to the Air Force in the past. This could specially make sense if Thanatos is being pitched for the unmanned Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA), which is expected to put 1,000 autonomous drones to cooperate with 200 NGAD 6th gen fighters.
The design in the rendering is a single-engine tailless aircraft with diamond wing, which benefits from reduced drag in the supersonic and high subsonic speed range. The aircraft is packed with low-observability features, such air inlets blended in the upper side of the fuselage, a “shovel” nose design and a recessed engine exhaust to reduce the infrared signature.
The nose design is similar to the one of the proposed Demogorgon UAV which Kratos pitched last year for another Air Force program. Considering that the first mention of Thanatos was in a 2019 briefing to investors, it is certain that Kratos is using the experience accumulated with all its drone programs, including Demogorgon, the UTAP-22 Mako and the XQ-58 Valkyrie, the tip of the spear among the UAVs offered by the company.
The Valkyrie, originally designed and built for the Air Force Low-Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator program, is currently being flown by Air Force and Marines and extensively tested with a focus on developing Autonomous Collaborative Platforms (ACP), such as the Collaborative Combat Aircraft, that will be able to operate in close cooperation with manned combat jets.