General Atomics is to begin flight testing LongShot, an unmanned drone which will be launched from a fighter jet and be capable of firing air-to-air weapons.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) is developing LongShot for a US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program which started in 2020.
LongShot will enable fighter jets to engage enemy threats from safer, standoff ranges than currently possible. According to General Atomics the air-launched LongShot drone would close the gap to take more effective missile shots, significantly increasing engagement range and the mission effectiveness of current 4th gen fighters.
GA-ASI was selected by DARPA to develop LongShot after a Preliminary Design Review (PDR) in February 2022. Since then, detailed designs have been worked on and ground testing conducted to decrease program risk.
GA-ASI experts to start the flight-testing phase of the program next year.
Engineers on the program have iterated through several vehicle designs to optimize performance, with further changes to the design expected before flight testing starts.
The flight test program aims to validate basic vehicle handling characteristics and lay the foundation for follow-on development and testing.
Mike Atwood, vice president of advanced aircraft programs at GA-ASI said, “We are extremely excited to get in the air. Flight testing will validate digital designs that have been refined throughout the course of the project. General Atomics is dedicated to leveraging this process to rapidly deliver innovative unmanned capabilities for national defense.”