General Atomics Unveils Aircraft-Launched Combat Drone Rendering

Developed under the DARPA program, 'LongShot' will further air combat capabilities.
Ameya Paleja
GA's rendering of the LongShot droneGeneral Atomics

Drone warfare is on the rise. From single unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), we have witnessed the progress of drone swarms in quite a short period of time. But as countries engage in drone warfare and drone defense systems, it is becoming a necessity for drones to have their own attack systems as well. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) had recognized this need a while ago and initiated the LongShot program, whose rendering was recently released by General Atomics

DARPA had announced the LongShot program earlier this year with the aim of reducing the risk of damage to aircraft and thereby increase the safety of the pilots. By providing a drone capable of engaging in air combat, the program allows pilots to remain at safe distances in conflict zones and still engage in multiple combat operations. DARPA had awarded the first phase contracts to General Atomics, Northrup Grumman, and Lockheed Martin. 

Poway, California-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., (GA-ASI) released a rendering of their version of the LongShot recently. GA's version shows a cockpit that looks much like a B-52 stealth bomber but without the need for the cockpit windows. A fraction of the size of the B-52, the drone needs a comparatively larger-looking fuselage to house the combat weapons it is designed to deliver. 

In the release accompanying the render, General Atomics suggests that the LongShot drone would "help clear the way through the skies". Unlike conventional drones that need to be launched from allied bases and need to travel distances before engaging, the LongShot would be carried on-board manned aircraft for most of their journey to be released just before their mission. The company also mentions an alternate method, where the LongShot could be launched for another unmanned aerial vehicle and then controlled remotely.

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The company also added that the LongShot drones could be used onboard conventionally weaker sections of the airforce such as bomber planes and making them more self-reliant. Instead of calling in aerial support that might be engaged elsewhere, future bombers could be strengthened with LongShot drones to be launched in the event of a confrontation with enemy fighters.

Northrop Grumman has already released their render of the drone and we can't wait to see the drones in action soon.  

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