The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has unveiled a new concept that seeks to develop an armed unmanned aerial system designed to carry and launch air-to-air missiles and that can be produced through on-demand rapid manufacturing process, Popular Mechanics reported Thursday.
Air Force Lt. Col. Jimmy Jones, a program manager at DARPA’s strategic technology office, said in a video posted Wednesday the Flying Missile Rail concept aims to build an armed drone that can fly aboard F-16 and F/A-18 fighter jets’ missile rails and launch at least one AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missile.
Jones said DARPA expects the FMR concept to result in the adoption of a 3D printing, computer numerical control machining and other manufacturing processes that can produce approximately 500 air combat drones a month, the report said.
The FMR program also aims to advance the “factory in a can” strategy in which materials, electronic systems and other manufacturing tools can be housed in several shipping containers.
Jones noted DARPA expects the FMR concept to produce prototypes of armed drones within two years that can fly for up to 20 minutes at 690 miles per hour, the report added.