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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has officially selected General Atomics (GA) for the next phase of its “LongShot” program, an unmanned aircraft system that is dropped from a bomber or fighter that can launch missiles of its own. General Atomics was awarded a $94 million contract for the program’s third phase, with flight tests expected to begin in December 2023.
As reported by “Breaking Defense”, General Atomics was awarded a contract from DARPA for Phase 3 of its LongShot in June and is planning to display its new design for the drone at the upcoming Air and Space Forces Association conference. DARPA reportedly views LongShot to be potentially useful for both the Air Force and Navy.
General Atomics spokesman C. Mark Brinkley said in a statement that the company was awarded a contract to develop DARPA’s concept for disruptive air combat operations through the 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,” he explained.
According to Interesting Engineering, the new concept art released by the company depicts a design that is different than the one displayed two years ago. The aircraft features an elongated fuselage, small canards at the front, reverse-swept main wings towards the back, and an inverted V-shaped twin-tail configuration. The main wings appear to be detachable after launch.
An announcement made by DARPA in February 2021 states that “the objective is to develop a novel UAV that can significantly extend engagement ranges, increase mission effectiveness, and reduce the risk to manned aircraft… 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.”