General Atomics LongShot drone for DARPA to start flight tests in December

general atomics longshot

Image showing the design of the General Atomics offering for DARPA’s LongShot program. (General Atomics)

WASHINGTON — General Atomics will begin flight tests in December of its design for DARPA’s LongShot program, the company announced today.

GA, which in June was awarded a contract from DARPA for Phase 3 of its LongShot effort that could be worth up to $94 million, plans to show off its new design for the drone at this upcoming Air and Space Forces Association conference.

“General Atomics was competitively awarded a contract to develop DARPA’s concept for disruptive air combat operations through demonstration of an air-to-air weapons capable air vehicle. The concept seeks to significantly increase engagement range and mission effectiveness of current 4th gen fighters and air-to-air missiles,” company spokesman C. Mark Brinkley said in a statement.

Brinkley added that the flight testing will be used to “validate basic vehicle handling characteristics and lay the foundation for follow-on development and testing.”

DARPA views LongShot — a turducken-like unmanned aircraft system dropped from a bomber or fighter that can launch missiles of its own — a potentially useful for both the Air Force and Navy.

“The objective is to develop a novel UAV that can significantly extend engagement ranges, increase mission effectiveness, and reduce the risk to manned aircraft,” a February 2021 announcement from DARPA stated. “It is envisioned that LongShot will 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 to take more effective missile shots.”

General Atomics was picked alongside Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin to provide preliminary designs for LongShot’s first phase in February 2021. However, the company was the sole awardee for phase 2 in March 2022, and then again was the sole awardee for the phase 3 effort.

Innovative drone design is very much on the forefront of Pentagon leaders at the moment, following the announcement by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kath Hicks of her “Replicator” effort, which seeks to acquire thousands of drones across multiple domains in the next 18-24 months.

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