DARPA announced the three companies selected to develop concepts for its LongShot program. The agency did not disclose the financial details of its selection, but said the contracts are for concepts of a UAV that would be launched into the air, after which the drone would be able to launch its own air-to-air weapons.
Right now, DARPA says that “air superiority concepts” revolve around manned fighter jets, which is a problem for an obvious reason: it puts human pilots at risk. One of the biggest advantages of autonomous military technology is that it removes the human component, allowing soldiers and others to stay further away from the action.
DARPA’s LongShot program seeks advanced air-to-air weapon concepts that will allow fighter aircraft to launch a UAV carrying ‘multiple air-to-air weapons’. The LongShot UAV will approach the target while the manned fighters are further away, allowing for ‘more effective missile shots’ while decreasing the risk for pilots.
LongShot contracts were awarded to Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and Lockheed Martin – they cover the preliminary design work for Phase 1. Once this phase is completed, future phases will actually involve building and flying a full-scale version of a concept , including ‘gun ejection’.
DARPA program manager, Lt. Col. Paul Calhoun, said:
The LongShot program changes the paradigm of air combat operations by demonstrating an unmanned, air-launched vehicle capable of employing current and advanced air-to-air weapons. LongShot will disrupt traditional incremental weapon improvements by providing an alternative means of generating combat capability.