DARPA’s groundbreaking LongShot initiative gets ready with its upcoming critical milestones, revolutionizing air combat capabilities and preparing for take-off with flight tests by 2024.
As the Pentagon’s research and development wing, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is pioneering a revolutionary new technology – an air-launched drone carrying long-range missiles.
DARPA’s state-of-the-art weapon system will revolutionize aerial combat, allowing fighter jets to strike targets at elevated distances and from various platforms such as aircraft carriers or land sites.
With the successful completion of this project, military forces around the world have access to extended ranges with greater flexibility.
Creation of Novel Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
DARPA’s LongShot Program aims to create “novel UAVs” (unmanned aerial vehicles), which would have “multiple air-to-air weapons” capable of significantly extending engagement ranges, increasing mission effectiveness, and reducing risk to manned aircraft according to DARPA specifications.
The cutting-edge UAV will have an unprecedented capability, which can be launched from other aircraft while carrying multiple air-to-air weapons designed to reduce risks posed by crewed flight operations while boosting the effectiveness of its missions.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) edged out aerospace and defense giants Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman – which were initially awarded Phase 1 contracts for preliminary design work last year.
GA-ASI remains a prime contractor as DARPA’s LongShot Program completes Phase 2 of the initiative this year and onwards to its final stage of development by next year.
In a statement, GAASI expressed optimism about the positive developments for DARPA’s Longshot program.
“GA-ASI is pleased to continue supporting the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) LongShot program. LongShot changes the paradigm of air combat operations by demonstrating an unmanned air-launched vehicle capable of employing air-to-air weapons. 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 standoff ranges far away from enemy threats while an air-launched LongShot unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) efficiently “closes the gap” to take more effective missile shots.”
Critical Design Review Completes Phase 2 of DARPA’s LongShot Program
GA-ASI has achieved yet another milestone in its journey toward the DARPA LongShot program, passing a successful Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and successfully continuing into Phase 2.
As part of this phase, the team completes detailed designs, and ground tests are conducted to reduce risk factors before launching into Phase 3.
Critical Design Review (CDR) completion is up this year for the project, which will be able to conclude the second phase of DARPA’s LongShot Program.
While completing the second phase in this sophisticated program, GA-ASI will employ a range of tests and trials – including detailed designs and ground assessments – demonstrating the viability of air vehicle separation from air-to-air weapons.
GA-ASI explained that to reduce further risk levels associated with this project, multi-body wind tunnel tests are crucial, characterizing LongShot air vehicle separation from its accompanying weapon.
The company pointed out that wind tunnel tests are significant in assessing air vehicle and weapon separation dynamics. The positive results will bolster Phase 3 setup, as GA-ASI proposals have already begun rolling in.
Ultimately, these efforts are intended to support standoff ranges away from enemy threats and strengthen missile shots with an efficient UAV closing system developed among other unique components of this game-changing project.
A Close Look at DARPA’s LongShot Program
DARPA’s LongShot initiative is a novel approach to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that aims to dramatically extend the engagement ranges of existing military assets while reducing the risk to manned aircraft.
The new UAVs will be capable of launching from existing aircraft, such as bombers or transport planes, thereby expanding their operational capabilities.
LongShot is not just a military innovation; it will also make it easier for the military to engage difficult-to-reach and well-fortified targets, especially those in urban areas where traditional air-to-ground attacks may not be feasible.
The LongShot program has already entered its critical design review phase, with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) as the sole prime contractor remaining in the program.
As one of the leading UAV companies in the world, GA-ASI is well equipped to handle the LongShot initiative, with extensive experience in the development and operation of unmanned aerial vehicles over the years and will undoubtedly be up to the challenge of creating the world’s first armed drone that can be launched from other aircraft.
Analysts observe that the LongShot initiative, a significant milestone in the evolution of UAVs, represents a major step forward in developing long-range, unmanned aerial weapons systems that are significantly more powerful and versatile than current UAVs.
In the coming years, the LongShot program can give rise to a new breed of aerial warfare that is more sophisticated, lethal, and ultimately effective in achieving the military’s objectives.
Industry experts added that the development of LongShot could also usher in a new era of UAVs, transforming them from mere surveillance and intelligence-gathering platforms to fully weaponized AI-powered systems that can stay aloft for days.
The AI-powered drones will be capable of advanced target identification, tracking, and engagement capabilities, ultimately offering unprecedented situational awareness for military commanders.
For its part, GA-ASI said that it is proud to continue its partnership with the DARPA LongShot program, which introduces an innovative approach to air combat mission execution.
GA-ASI pointed out that the new paradigm allows UAVs – launched from safe standoff ranges far away from enemy threats – to fill a critical gap in current air superiority concepts by demonstrating their capability as effective missile shots delivery systems.
With this revolutionary technological shift, manned aircraft will gain greater long-term survivability against potential adversaries on the battlefield of tomorrow, the aerospace giant added.
As an industry leader in the UAV sector, GA-ASI has created robust and dependable systems to support missions with proven success, accumulating seven million flight hours.
According to its website, GA-ASI is equipped with iconic systems such as the Predator® RPA series, the multi-mode Lynx® Radar providing long endurance ability, and integrated sensor/data link functions for enhanced situational awareness and precision strikes.
Their services extend beyond aircraft production with ground control stations with superior sensor controls/image analysis software capabilities powered by metamaterial antennas, pilot training, support programs, and meta-material antennae developments.
DARPA’s LongShot program, which seeks to develop technology for the launch of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from manned fighter jets and other aircraft, is nearing completion for its second phase.
As part of this critical milestone in its development process, GA-ASI has responded with a proposal response that would enable prototype manufacturing and flight testing next year.
GA-ASI Senior Director of Advanced Programs Michael Altwood affirmed their commitment to making the LongShot UAV mission successful: “GA-ASI is committed to the successful flight demonstration of the LongShot air vehicle.”
Phase 3 of the program is next, and GA-ASI has already submitted its proposal to DARPA.
The aerospace giant looks forward to initiating flight testing next year upon completing prototype manufacturing.
In addition, GA-ASI is confident that this innovative UAV system can effectively target enemy aircraft when launched by manned fighter jets or other transports from an elevated platform – truly demonstrating striking capability at long-range distances.
Longshot, specifically designed as an air vehicle that can be launched by manned fighter jets or other aircraft types to shoot down enemy planes in midair combat situations, has the GA-ASI commitment for its successful demonstration next year.
Once launched, using manned fighter jets or other aircraft as carriers, this air vehicle has been designed specifically to shoot down enemy aircraft, GA-ASI confirmed.