The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) “LongShot” program that aims to develop an air-launched unmanned air vehicle (UAV) that can fire multiple air-to-air weapons.

The contract valued $9 million awarded today provides for the research, development and demonstration of the Longshot.

Earlier this month, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman won contracts for for preliminary Phase I design work. The objective is to develop a novel UAV that can significantly extend engagement ranges, increase mission effectiveness, and reduce the risk to manned aircraft.

LongShot would allow fighters and bombers to take off with air-to-air missiles attached to a powered UAV that can separate and fly far ahead of the launch aircraft. A key challenge is to complete a series of events, including finding, tracking and engaging a target at very long range with an autonomous missile launching system.

In later phases of the program, LongShot will construct and fly a full-scale air-launched demonstration system capable of controlled flight, before, during, and after weapon ejection under operational conditions.

Prior to this project, DARPA had run a very similar program simply known as the Flying Missile Rail (FMR), the concept art for which depicted a drone loaded with two AIM-120 AMRAAMs on external pylons.

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