Team LM successfully fired its Fire Shadow Loitering Munition on the 30th April, completing a rapid development demonstrator programme lasting just 15 months.
Team LM, which comprises traditional complex weapons suppliers, non- traditional complex weapons defence companies, SMEs (Small and Medium size Enterprises) as well as academia, began design work on the new Fire Shadow weapon system in January 2007. The weapon is being presented as a solution for the UK ground forces’ requirement for a low cost, all-weather, 24 hour capability to carry out precision attacks against surface targets which may be difficult to engage and time sensitive.
With MBDA at its head, Team LM comprises Blue Bear Systems Research, Cranfield Aerospace, Cranfield University, Lockheed Martin UK INSYS, Marshalls SV, Meggitt, QinetiQ, Roxel, Selex SAS, Thales UK, Ultra Electronics and VEGA.
The firing of Fire Shadow was carried out at the QinetiQ-managed UK Ministry of Defence Aberporth trials range in West Wales. The firing demonstrated launch, separation, flight and terminal manoeuvre of the innovative design concept incorporating a forward swept wing. Following the boosted launch and problem-free separation, the munition climbed to altitude and flew a pre-planned flight path. After completing this sequence the munition then executed a terminal dive incorporating a high-g manoeuvre to represent a simulated target engagement. Throughout the flight trial, onboard video imagery and position data was transmitted from the munition via a datalink and successfully received and displayed in the ground station at the Aberporth range.
Fire Shadow has been the focus of an intense Industry/MoD funded rapid development programme executed by Team LM in response to some of the specific challenges set out within the UK MoD's Defence Industrial Strategy. In order to achieve this first successful firing of a completely new design in such a short timeframe, the team pioneered a new approach incorporating considerable re-use of proven technology integrated with new innovative technology, without compromising technical integrity and safety.
This successful first flight represents a key milestone towards the radically reduced delivery timescale of a new weapon system capable of engaging fixed and moving targets at depth in a complex battlefield environment that is relevant to current operations.
Steve Wadey, MBDA’s Executive Group Director Technical and Managing Director UK, said: “The successful Fire Shadow firing provides tangible evidence that the UK Complex Weapons Industry, led by MBDA, has responded to the challenges of MoD's Defence Industrial Strategy by adopting new and innovative ways of delivering Military Capability. This firing is an outstanding achievement for all those involved in Team LM and also underpins the strategic partnering relationship with MoD for the Complex Weapons sector through Team CW”.
In July 2006, the UK MoD announced at the Farnborough Air Show in 2006 a change in the procurement strategy for the Loitering Munition Demonstration and Manufacture phase of the Indirect Fire Precision Attack (IFPA) programme (worth in excess of £500M).
It will now be single sourced to the MBDA (UK) led Team CW, subject to an enduring requirement for this technology, affordability and the ability to clearly demonstrate Value For Money. Following the announcement Team LM has been working closely with the IFPA IPT to prepare for the launch of the Loitering Munitions Assessment Phase in 2008.
Fire Shadow will provide the Land Component with a flexible capability to provide timely, enduring and precise support at appropriate ranges, allowing simultaneous attack in deep, close and rear operations throughout the spectrum of conflict. Fire Shadow will meet the UK’s requirement for an affordable weapon with an operating range of more than 100km and a sub-metric CEP (or Circular Error of Probability). It also features MITL (Man In The Loop) operation.
It will be targeted by ISTAR assets such as Watchkeeper and will be compatible with other battlefield systems. The LM will loiter in the target area for around 10 hours and will be particularly effective in complex and urban environments.