General Atomics to continue developing LongShot, DARPA’s missile-launching drone

General Atomics LongShot concept
General Atomics

General Atomics was chosen to further develop the LongShot concept – an aircraft-launched drone meant to extend the range of air-to-air missiles. 

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) chose General Atomics to continue with the Phase 2 of the LongShot development program, while discarding the designs proposed by its competitors Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. 

The Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of the designs was conducted in February 2022, and the Phase 2 was started in March 2023, according to the General Atomics press release

The second phase involved the designs undergoing multi-body wind tunnel tests, demonstrating the drones’ aerodynamic ability to launch missiles in-flight. 

The Phase 2 will conclude with ground tests that will pave way for flight tests during Phase 3. 

“GA-ASI [General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. – AeroTime] is committed to the successful flight demonstration of the LongShot air vehicle,” Michael Atwood, Senior Director of Advanced Programs at General Atomics, is quoted in the release. 

According to Shephard Media, DARPA confirmed that General Atomics was the only company chosen to continue with the LongShot program, while designs by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman were discarded. 

The program was initiated in early 2021 and involved three companies proposing their designs for a missile-armed drone that could further extend the reach of long-range air-to-air missiles. 

The drone is intended to be equipped with airbreathing engines that would give it significant flight time and range.  

Sufficiently small to be carried by fighter or bomber aircraft, the drone would be launched before the engagement and close the distance, before launching up to two missiles stored in its internal weapons bay. 

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