LongShot UAV
Artist’s concept of LongShot UAV. Courtesy DARPA

General Atomics announced Monday it has been chosen by the Defense Department to develop a sophisticated new drone that can be used for air-to-air combat.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding the LongShot program to produce an unmanned vehicle that can be launched from a bomber and engage enemy aircraft on its own.

“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,” said DARPA program manager Lt. Col. Paul Calhoun.

“LongShot will disrupt traditional incremental weapon improvements by providing an alternative means of generating combat capability,” Calhoun said.

Michael Atwood, director of advanced programs from the San Diego-based company’s Aeronautical Systems division, said General Atomics “is committed to the successful flight demonstration of the LongShot air vehicle.”

The next step in the program is to develop detailed designs for ground and wind tunnel tests. If these are successful, the program would move to building a prototype for flight testing in 2024.

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have also been involved in the project, but DARPA has said it will chose a single company to develop the prototype.

General Atomics is credited with starting the revolution in military use of unmanned vehicles with its iconic Predator drone.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.