DARPA has begun developing LongShot, an air-launched unmanned air vehicle (UAV) with the ability to employ multiple air-to-air weapons. DARPA’s LongShot program aims to develop a novel UAV that can significantly extend engagement ranges, increase mission effectiveness, and reduce the risk to manned aircraft.
The peculiarity of this system, in addition to the possibility of being able to make several UAVs interact together against a single target, is that it can be transported externally by fighters or internally by bombers. LongShot is expected to increase the survivability of manned platforms by allowing them to be at standoff ranges far away from enemy threats, while an air-launched LongShot UAV efficiently closes the gap for more effective missile shots.
According to reports, the LongShot will employ a multimodal propulsion system capable of ensuring high efficiency during the cruise and then accelerating to high speed before the missile launch.
“The LongShot program changes the paradigm of air combat operations by demonstrating an unmanned, air-launched vehicle capable of employing current and advanced air-to-air weapons,” said DARPA program manager Lt. Col. Paul Calhoun. “LongShot will disrupt traditional incremental weapon improvements by providing an alternative means of generating combat capability.“
The agency has awarded contracts to General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman for preliminary Phase I design work. In later phases of the program, LongShot will construct and fly a full-scale air-launched demonstration system capable of controlled flight before, during, and after weapon ejection under operational conditions.