DARPA has kicked off Phase 1 of its LongShot program, which aims to develop an air-launched unmanned air vehicle (UAV) that can employ multiple air-to-air weapons, extend engagement ranges, and reduce the risk to manned aircraft. Contracts from preliminary design work have been awarded to General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman.
Traditionally, air superiority tactics involve using manned fighter aircraft with effective weapon delivery capabilities to provide a penetrating counter-air capability. The LongShot UAV will enhance the survivability of manned aircraft by allowing them to stay further away from enemy threats, closing the gap by launching an unmanned aircraft that can deliver munitions.
Subsequent phases of the LongShot program will aim to produce full-scale air-launched demonstration system capable of controlled flight, before, during, and after weapon ejection under operational conditions.
Lt. Col. Paul Calhoun, DARPA program manager, commented: “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. LongShot will disrupt traditional incremental weapon improvements by providing an alternative means of generating combat capability.”