Defense Technologies

US: DARPA UAV LongShot air-to-air missile program

  • DARPA is working on UAV LongShot air-to-air missile program
  • Aims and objectives of the DARPA’s LongShot program
  • LongShot UAV in future combats

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is developing an air-launched LongShot Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that carries its own air-to-air missiles. 

DARPA announced that it had awarded contracts to Lockheed Martin, General Atomics, and Northrop Grumman for the first phase of the program. In this phase, the companies will create preliminary designs. 

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Aim of the LongShot project:

The objective of the LongShot UAV unmanned air-to-air missile program is to develop a system that can significantly extend engagement ranges, increase mission effectiveness, and reduce the risk of manned aircraft. 

The current system depends on advanced manned fighter aircraft to provide penetrating counter-air capability to effectively deliver weapons. The new LongShot program aims to increase the survivability of high-value manned aircraft to stay at long-distances far away from enemy threats, while the air-launched LingShot UAV moves forward to efficiently closes the gap and take more effective missile shots using its own air-to-air weapons.

Future of LongShot program: 

“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,” DARPA program manager Lt. Col. Paul Calhoun. “LongShot will disrupt traditional incremental weapon improvements by providing an alternative means of generating combat capabilities.” 

Under the LingShot program, DARPA plans to explore multimodal propulsion, which the agency sees as a key to drone operations. 

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The Program Director for Kinetic Weapons and Emerging Capabilities Jaime Engdahl at Northrop Grumman said, “Our collaboration with DARPA is the critical first step in the development of innovative operational concepts and solutions that will enhance our warfighter’s combat capability against a rapidly growing threat,” he further said “The LongShot program enables us to combine our digital engineering skillset with our extensive knowledge in advanced technology weapons, autonomous systems, and strike platforms to increase weapon range and effectiveness.” 

In the fiscal year 2021 budget documents, the Defense Department stated, “An air system using multi-modal propulsion could capitalize upon a slower speed, higher fuel-efficient air vehicle for ingress while retaining highly energetic air-to-air missiles for endgame target engagement.” 

DARPA also describes the next phase of the program, in which the full-scale model of the LongShot air-launched system will be developed that is capable of controlled flight, before, during, and after weapon ejection under operational conditions.

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The LongShot UAV system could either be launched from an external hardpoint on a fighter or the internal bay on a bomber. According to budget documents. 

DARPA has not disclosed any further technical information about the project and its budget. But it requested the resource allocation of $22 million in FY2021 to begin working on conceptual design. Both the Air Force and the Navy could be potential future customers of this advanced system. 


The LongShot program is an advanced development in the defense field by DARPA, either it will take years to induct it into the US military. 

The induction of the LongShot program in USAF,  will increase the operational reliability and precision strike capabilities and will save precious human lives on the future battlefields.


  1. DARPA official website
  2. The Defense News
  3. The Drive