The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has contracted three companies for the first phase of its LongShot programme to develop an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of employing multiple air-to-air weapons.
DARPA announced on 8 February that General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI), Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman had each been contracted for preliminary Phase I design work.
“The objective is to develop a novel UAV that can significantly extend engagement ranges, increase mission effectiveness, and reduce the risk to manned aircraft,” DARPA said. “Current air superiority concepts rely on advanced manned fighter aircraft to provide a penetrating counter air capability to effectively deliver weapons. It is envisioned that LongShot will increase the survivability of manned platforms by allowing them to be at stand-off ranges far away from enemy threats, while an air-launched LongShot UAV efficiently closes the gap to take more effective missile shots.”
DARPA did not disclose contract values, nor did it provide a timeline for Phase 1 or for any other elements of the LongShot programme. The only other details provided by the agency noted that under the later phases of the programme a flight will be conducted of a full-scale air-launched demonstration system capable of controlled operations, before, during, and after weapon ejection under real world conditions.