ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers needed a company to build and flight-test a prototype unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) able to fire several of its own air-to-air weapons. They found their solution from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. in Poway, Calif.
Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., announced an $82.6 million contract to General Atomics late last month for the third phase of the LongShot project.
The LongShot aircraft essentially will be an unmanned jet fighter-bomber with missiles attached to hardpoints underneath the wings, on the fuselage, or possibly in internal weapons bays for enhanced stealthiness. The idea is to extend aircraft engagement ranges from beyond the reach of enemy weapons to reduce risks to manned aircraft.
The LongShot attack UAV design will be launched from aircraft, like a missile, but with the ability to deploy several of its own air-to-air weapons.
The LongShot will enable piloted aircraft to fire the UAV from standoff ranges far away from enemy threats. The unmanned LongShot, meanwhile, can fly closer to enemy targets to increase precision, while keeping human pilots out of harm's way.
General Atomics prevails in the competition to move LongShot to prototype and flight demonstration over competitors Northrop Grumman Corp. in Falls Church, Va.; and Lockheed Martin Corp. in Bethesda, Md.
Military air superiority today relies on advanced manned fighter aircraft to provide a penetrating counter-air capability to deliver weapons effectively, DARPA officials say. The LongShot prototype will be a flyable full-scale air-launched demonstration system capable of controlled flight before, during, and after firing its weapons.
On this contract General Atomics will do the work in Poway and Adelanto, Calif.; Mukilteo and Sedro-Woolley, Wash.; Detroit; Tucson and Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz.; Tulsa, Okla.; Buffalo, N.Y.; and Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, and should be finished by October 2025.