back to article 'Loitering Munition' prowler-bomb in Welsh test

A consortium of missile companies has announced a successful test firing of a sophisticated new "loitering munition" intended for service with the British Army. According to Steve Wadey, UK boss of pan-European missile group MBDA: "The successful Fire Shadow firing provides tangible evidence that the UK Complex Weapons …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As the great Tom Lehrer sang

    "Once the rocket's gone up

    Who cares where it comes down?

    That's not my department"

    says Wernher von Braun

    Goddess help us if the Americans get their hands on something like this. We've already had a few friendly fire incidents with them...

  2. Anonymous Coward


    "It would be nice to see the armed forces simply buying lots of the new US Army Predator version" I agree, but it'd be even nicer to see people refrain from escalating petty squabbles into pointless wars. Mine's the one with the peace symbol on the back & the grenades in the pocket.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Tired of all this crap - nuke'em all. Faster cheaper. Make nice sunsets for a few years.

    I'll be in my bunker having my first coffee of the day.

  4. Booty Inspector

    Shoot first, decide what to hit later.



    Surrender NOW or that lot comes down with a BANG.

    You have 15 seconds to comply.

    You now have...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cost & Force..

    Artillery is still cheaper than the equivalent air strike and can deliver more explosive, although at a higher risk and not all at once..

    Weren't the US working on a laser guided artillery shell? What happened to that?

  6. John Griffiths

    obviously I'm a thickie

    But how does this loitering munition actually hang around in the sky??

    Hovering rockets? Anti-gravity?

    That's the bit I'm interested in.

  7. Adair Silver badge

    Loitering bombs.

    With all that sitting around the artillery boys (and girls), have obviously been spending their time wisely---playing 'Atomic Tanks'. Excellent!

    Mine's the one with wings.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Weren't the US working on a laser guided artillery shell? What happened to that?"

    Employed in Gulf1 ('91). Superceded if not obsoleted now by Excalibur.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Remind me.

    Who/what/where is the emeny we are fighting?

    Seems to me the only enemies are ignorance, arrogance, stupidity and greed from duplicitous, complicitous sub-Human trash who sit numb and brainwashed in front the Soul Stealer as the Marketing demons suck their minds out through their eyes. To them the next episode of East Enders is reality, nothing but grey shadows and ghosts exist beyond the reality of the next Reality show.

    To these modern Humans, Homo Zombiosus, this will be just another cool special FX in the next Action Movie.

  10. Craig McLean

    @Anon Coward (Re: Remind me.)

    <Government>The enemy is YOU you pinko, liberal, terrorist-hugging hippie. Stop thinking you know better than your duly elected betters, pay your taxes and shut the hell up...</Government>

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC: Copperhead

    That's the one, wouldn't want to be under a salvo of them buggers...

    6km range as well, so got the reach on the teleban.

    The British army have a tendency to use Javelins - the missile system, not the pointy sticks - at 65 grand a pop.

  12. david wilson

    Why loiter?

    If these munitions could stay in the air for hours at a time, and could attack targets over a reasonable area, why couldn't they just be fired when a target has been identified and authorised for destruction, rather than launched speculatively earlier on?

    Is it likely that the people firing the things will have moved too far away to fire them on demand by the time they are needed? Does artillery generally move around so much (and/or would the range of these weapons be so poor?)

    Presumably these things wouldn't be at all cheap, and the longer they have to stay airborne, the more expensive they will be, and the larger/heavier they will be, and the fewer would be able to be carried with a given amount of capacity.

  13. Dave Harris Silver badge
    Dead Vulture

    @david wilson

    Presumably, it's because you know that a "high value" target is going to be in a certain area between certain times, but you don't know exactly where or when. So your forward observers are watching, and when Bin Workin', the scouse liberation terrorist, turns up in his capri and shellsuit, you can call in the hovering deathbot with more precision and less advance notice of, say, rotor blades or jet engines. Less PR-unfriendly collateral damage, one less be-polyestered razor-dodger, jobs a good'un

  14. Maliciously Crafted Packet

    @david wilson, I suspect this may be why.

    "During the 1999 'Allied Force' offensive in Kosovo, Luftwaffe Tornado ECR, USAF Wild Weasel F-16s and US Navy EA-6B Prowlers attempted to destroy a Serbian air defence radar with HARMs. After almost 100 attempts, the RAF was called in and the radar was destroyed with a single ALARM, thanks to its loiter capability."

    If it says so in Wiki it must be true.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One day..

    One day Lewis Page will write an article who's conclusion isn't to just buy American..

    Not sure how it'll work in practice but the LM is an interesting idea, if they're really clever it'll act as a cheap UAV asset in the 10 hours before it gives up the ghost.

    As for the price, I suppose you're buying 10 hours of the enemy keeping it's head down.

  16. Jason Haas

    And this is good?...

    Seems patently un-good to me. As we all know, magnificent technology such as this _never_ malfunctions....

  17. daniel Silver badge



    10m a shot.

    How many artillery shells can you get for that?

    - "Smart" 155mm shell with GPS guidance (excalibur) : $150000 (what, about 100000 beer tokens?).

    - Standard 155mm HE shell : under 1000 bucks (about 750 quid?)

    So, for 1 "loitering" unmanned kamikazi RC cruise missle abortion, you can get 100 lumps of GPS guided ordonnance (maybe more if you get a wholesale reduction, or you can immolate a small african country with over 13000 standard 155 mm shells - and scare the living sh*t out of the natives.

    10 million quid a shot. 15 000 000 dollars. A standard tomahawk only costs 2 million...

    I'm not sure that I understand the economics of this.

    And I rember reading on the innerneck that there is this kiwi in New Zeland who is making his own RC cruise missle with off the shelf parts, for infinitly less than that... Pay him a few crates of beer and a new Ute and I'm sure he'll be able to build an arsenal of RC Tomawhacks - or supply his own design for the Greater Glory of the Empire...

  18. Christoph

    It's pretty obvious what will happen

    This thing is run by squaddies, not officers.

    If they don't find a target within the fixed lifetime, it self-destructs.

    So the squaddy in charge will be 'gently encouraged' to make sure he finds a target next time before the expensive gadget gets wasted.

    So he will make sure to find a target.

    So Johnny Foreigner will moan and complain just because said target happened to be an ordinary bloke walking down the road.

    So the Army will loudly deny this and insist that they have killed a terrorist.

    So Johnny Foreigner will get very angry, and the military situation will get worse.

    Result: More terrorist kills for the politicians to boast about, more military problems requiring more investment in armaments firms, more requirement for draconian laws.

    Hey, it's all win!

  19. david wilson


    With the failed HARMs, is that down to the missiles just being pants, or to being fired off when there wasn't actually anything for them to target?

    If the USP for a loitering missile is for anti-radiation jobs, and we already *have* an anti-radiation missile that can loiter...

  20. David Pollard
    Black Helicopters

    Oh Noes

    The black helicopters are bad enough without having to worry about these too.

  21. Argus Tuft
    Black Helicopters

    wake up people

    loitering munitions controlled remotely via COMPUTERS.. - it's just another step on the road to global domination by our robo-overlords....

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. Phlogiston

    @david wilson: ALARM

    The HARM missiles themselves work extremely well for what they are intended; See a target, launch missile, home-in and explode at destination.

    The problems re: Serbia were that the "targets" (This is anecdotal from interviews with Serbians on the gound involved in what they determined was resistance to "outside interference". For information peruse some of the military forums such as or etc.) were very often screened by modified home microwave ovens. Turn on real targeting radar, ping enemy, scare up an incoming bogie which you track. When the bogie gets close to known firing distance shutdown "real" radar and turn on half-dozen false emitters. Result: dead microwave. Cost: $500 tops. Expended HARM. Cost: $317k.

    Article here gives some data. Note especially the description of them not knowing friend-from-foe nor hitting the "intended" target.

  24. Jerry
    Thumb Up

    AC130 Anyone

    If you want a highly mobile artillery system, look no further than the AC130 aircraft gunship.

    Designed for close air support the wonderful beast carries multiple gatling guns as well as 105mm howitzers.

    This aircraft is in action today, amongst other things raining death on the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan.

    A good video of it in action is at

  25. Anonymous Coward

    @daniel: £10m/shot?!

    I think you're out by 1-2 orders of magnitude there... probably due to confusing the Sky Worrier UAV price given in the article with the unmentioned LM price.

    Tomahawk is more like $600k/shot (i.e. 4x the cost of your smart shell, or a GMLRS round) and there's no reason why a loiterer should cost more - it's just another form of cruise missile, which happens to send back its holiday snaps.

    Yes, there are arguments against it - particularly if it gets gold-plated to the point where you can't afford to fire them by the dozen - but a cheap cruise missile, with a camera and the ability to circle a battlefield waiting for a target to pop up is a useful product. Particularly if you fancy playing whack-a-mole from 100 miles away!

    AC for obvious reasons.

  26. Dan

    Honest work

    "it would mean a lot of people in various arms plants here in Europe having to go and find honest work"

    What? You mean to say that the arms industry is dishonest?

    I'd rather work in an arms plant than be, for example, a politician or a lawyer, or work for BT. At least my customers would know exactly where they stood with my products and services.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Javelin - JonB and Daniel

    What's this Javelin you're talking about? The only references I could find on a brief Google were to a current US MAW and an obsolete UK SAM. Both shoulder launched and not really the purview of the Artillery, nor suitable for the sort of fire mission that artillery generally gets called upon to deliver, being point attacks rather than area.

  28. JP Sistenich


    "I'd rather work in an arms plant than be, for example, a politician or a lawyer, or work for BT. At least my customers would know exactly where they stood with my products and services."

    What, miles and miles away, with munitions hanging over their heads and one click away from oblivion?

  29. Sam

    Welsh test

    "How long have we got left?"

    "5 minutes"

    "Waste not want not, where's Russell T Davies?"

  30. call me scruffy


    Ah.... if only ego showed up on Infra-Red;-)

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's this Javelin you're talking about?

    It's an IR guided anti-tank weapon, the army use it on the taleban because they (the army) have no light artillery. Although why don't they use mortars for that?

    Your comments on suitability are quite correct.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But surely

    If you have a nice loitering munition then the solution is to encourage it to cease loitering, by either giving it a false target (can't be that difficult if its computer controlled and much easier if its squaddie controlled) or just shooting it down?

  33. Gary Shields

    Javelin Anti-Tank MRATGW

    Used quite extensively, with excellent results (from an Infantry soldier's POV).

  34. Nigee

    reality check

    Actually gunners have pretty well stopped being infantry for the moment, and are fully involved firing light artillery in Afganistan.

    The LM concept as a 'war winner' has been around for a decade at least, however, its only recently that technology has reached the stage where it can be 'low cost' (no doubt a relative term).

    The advantages of LM over armed UAVs is that they can be in more places at once. LM will probably be fired from their box strapped to the back of a truck, no UAV landings, return flights, sortie rates, refuelling, servicing, etc, etc. You've got 50 UAVs, you'll be lucky to much more than a third of them in the air over possible targets. With LM you can have 50 over 50 different places. However, UAVs may be used to control some of them, particularly against targets in depth, where squaddies are a bit thin on the ground (but not entirely missing).

    While the LM controller (or at least the guy who is told you've got a clutch of LM nearby, can hit whatever you want 30 secs after its picked) will not be an officer, he/she will have an officer nearby probably selecting the actual targets including running a quick mental check on what the lawyers said to ensure no war crimes.

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