Fire Shadow Loitering Munition

The Fire Shadow loitering munition was a UK development that did not enter service

Fire Shadow was described by MBDA as;

Fire Shadow provides a precision capability to engage high value targets in complex scenarios. Surface launched, the munitions have a range of ~100 km and can conduct a direct transit to target or be positioned to loiter in the airspace for a significant time (~ 6 hours). A Man-In-The-Loop decision then enables a precise and rapid attack against a selected target.

You will note the use of the word was, this is because Fire Shadow has effectively been cancelled.

Fire Shadow trial March 2012

I have included it in this series for completeness.

Fire Shadow Loitering Munition History

Loitering munitions are not a new concept, the IAI Harpy system was designed for the counter-air defence role, its loitering capability allowed it to have utility against the simple anti-radiation missile counter of switching the radar off.

The MoD Loitering Munition Capability Demonstration (LMCD) Assessment surfaced in 2005 and attracted a number of bidders as part of the emergent Indirect Fire Precision Attack (IFPA) project.

MBDA teamed up with IAI, Insys, QinetiQ and Cranfield University to offer a new and larger variant of the Harpy that replaced the passive radar detector with an electro-optical sensor, this was called White Hawk by MBDA or the Harop by everyone else.

Lockheed Martin proposed the Surveilling Miniature Attack cruise Missile (SMACM) that could be carried on the same BRU-61/B SDB carriage system from Cobham that is used on the F35 and F22.


Thales and Rheinmetall offered a variant of the TAIFUN UAV called Tactical Advanced Reconnaissance Strike System (TARES). The TARES had a loiter time of 4 hours and a maximum range of 200km.


The BLADE (Battlefield Loitering Artillery Direct Effect) was Ultra Electronics offering although this was based on the Israeli Sparrow-N UAV from UVision and the BLADE team included BAE, Lockheed Martin, Praxis and Raytheon.

BLADE Launcher

BLADE Loitering

Also in 2005, the MoD awarded an £8.4m contract to Systems Development to develop a loitering munition demonstrator. Systems Development then partnered with Blue Bear Research to produce a number of scale models and make use of the SNAP Autopilot system and other BRR capabilities.


Initial Tests

Fire Shadow Image 2

Test Video

Maritime Fire Shadow

Fire Shadow Image 1

The project was described;

The project will deliver 25 safe and useful munitions in March 2012 (50%). These will form a start-up capability for current operations.

These were demonstrated in June 2012 and while the success rate was lower than desired, performance of the hardware met the Loitering Munition key performance measures.

Reason for change: The Senior Responsible Owner took a decision not to deploy the weapon for testing in Afghanistan as the capability was not sufficiently mature. It could therefore not meet its In-Service Date for use in Afghanistan so it has been re-defined

Full Operating Capability requirement under revision as part of wider Indirect  Fire Precision Attack Programme. The incremental approach has delivered an End- to- End Capability Demonstration which was successful in yielding information and understanding that will be used to inform Departmental planning on the way forward, not just in relation to Loitering Munition, but the whole Indirect Fire Precision Attack Project.


Fire Shadow Image 3

VCS4586 Software

VCS4586 Software - Fire Shadow

Control System

Fire Shadow Image 4

Test Firing 1

Fire Shadow Loitering Munition

Test Firing 2

Fire Shadow Loitering Munition

Rail Launcher

Fire Shadow Image 5

Vehicle Launcher

Fire Shadow Loitering Munition

Fire Shadow would have been an interesting weapon for naval use.

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Change Status

Change Date Change Record
 21/05/2016 Initial issue
28/07/2021 Format refresh
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