General Atomics Secures DARPA Contract for LongShot Air-to-Air Combat Drone

  • Bureau
  • 06:08 AM, September 9, 2023
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General Atomics Secures DARPA Contract for LongShot Air-to-Air Combat Drone
GA-ASI LongShot illustration

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has secured the DARPA LongShot program, aiming to develop an air-to-air missile-equipped drone launchable and controllable by fighters and bombers.

DARPA considers the LongShot, an innovative unmanned aircraft system deployable from bombers or fighters with its missile-launching capability, valuable for both the Air Force and Navy.

In June, GA-ASI received a Phase 3 contract from DARPA for its LongShot initiative, potentially valued at up to $94 million. The company plans to unveil the drone's new design at an upcoming Air and Space Forces Association conference.

General Atomics was competitively selected in 2020 to develop DARPA's concept for disruptive air combat operations, aiming to enhance engagement range and mission effectiveness for current 4th-gen fighters and air-to-air missiles.

DARPA revealed the recipients of its initial LongShot contracts, which had actually commenced in the year prior, with General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman being the chosen companies.

Flight testing for this drone is expected to commence by the end of the year, validating its basic handling characteristics and paving the way for further development and testing.

The new drone design features an elongated fuselage, small front canards, rearward-swept main wings, and an inverted V-shaped twin-tail configuration. It appears to have deployable main wings and carries an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM).

DARPA's 2024 Fiscal Year budget proposal outlines LongShot as an air-launched UAV capable of engaging multiple targets from standoff ranges using existing air-to-air missiles. It can be deployed externally from existing fighters or internally from bombers and addresses stability and control challenges in launching air-to-air missiles from a relatively small UAV in operational scenarios.

DARPA is requesting over $44 million for LongShot in Fiscal Year 2024, up from the $36 million allocated in the previous fiscal cycle.