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General Atomics Unveils Aircraft-Launched Combat Drone Design

General Atomics has unveiled a design for its “LongShot” missile-carrying air-to-air combat drone that can be launched from a manned aircraft while in mid-air.

The arms and aerospace company is developing the unmanned aerial vehicle for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in collaboration with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. 

The LongShot Program

DARPA’s LongShot is a program to extend the range of human-powered aircraft by including an armed UAV as part of the weapons platform. This will manned aircraft to operate at a safer distance when engaging threats, beyond the range of enemy weapons.

“LongShot gives commanders options, just as all remotely operated systems always have,” General Atomics said. “It could initiate a fighter sweep ahead of a strike wave without putting a human crew in danger, or it could join an attack alongside the vanguard with human-crewed warplanes.”

Through the program, older aircraft such as legacy bombers could be given “new life” by incorporating this new aerial combat technology.

“Imagine if a friendly bomber were en route during a combat mission and allied battle networks detected the approach of hostile fighters,” General Atomics said. “LongShot would let the bomber crew go on offense against the threat without the need for its own escorts or the retasking of friendly fighters, preserving its ability to service its targets as planned.”

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