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13 Dec 2022

Royal Navy seeking 'loitering munitions' for ships

Royal Navy seeking 'loitering munitions' for ships
FILE PHOTO: IAI HAROP loitering munition
Originally posted UKDefenceJournal
Loitering munitions, weapons that can ‘loiter’ above a battlefield and wait for their target, are being sought by the Royal Navy to enhance the capabilities of its warships.

According to a pre-procurement notice published by the Ministry of Defence, the DE&S Future Capability Group (FCG), in conjunction with the Royal Navy, “are looking to demonstrate a modular (20ft ISO container) medium size loitering munition automated launch and storage POD”.

More about the PODS concept later.

The notice adds that the project end state is seeking to establish the viability of, and to provide, a deployable integrated launch module for loitering munitions through a successful maritime, land and littoral concept demonstration.

Industry advice is sought on the cost and timeframes of key phases of activity to develop and demonstrate an initial concept system culminating in a number of live fire events.

The questions asked in the request for information from industry are as follows.

This RFI invites industry to assist in establishing cost and time estimates for the project in the following areas:

1. Design, build, prepare and physical integration of systems into an ISO container POD;

2. Procurement of medium sized loitering munitions to integrate into the ISO container POD;

3. and, subsequent demonstrations to include deployment of ISO container POD, targets and range costs.

4. This work is to be a concept demonstration only, in order to provide evidence for, and inform procurement decisions.

5. Type of LM should support a cost-effective approach to a concept demonstration.

6. Costs should include equipment, design, build, integration, safety, targetry and range costs.

7. UK trials are preferential but overseas trials would be warranted in support of a cost-effective programme.

8. Safe storage and maintenance of equipment delivered to support the trial should be considered.

9. Include functionality to enable remote firing.

10. Consider costs for both land and ship-based trials.

11. Assume contractor operated – i.e. no military operators but consider what a training package would look like.

12. If applicable, highlight any support required from any stakeholder OEMs, GFX, delivery partner, safety, integration and range personnel as required.

Wait, what are ‘PODS’?

According to the Royal Navy here, PODS are “Persistent Operational Deployment Systems”.

PODS are interchangeable modules that can be fitted to the surface fleet. Similar in design to a shipping container, the PODS create the idea of a ‘plug and play’ warship and will enable Royal Navy ships of all sizes to be more adaptable and versatile when deployed.

“Delivered using innovative technology such as heavy-lift drones or autonomous boats, a ship will be able to receive the equipment it needs to be re-tasked quicker without the need to go into a port to collect it. Large in size, the PODS will house assets vital to supporting Royal Navy operations. These may include an autonomous boat for surveillance and reconnaissance, quadcopter drones to deliver supplies, humanitarian aid and disaster relief stores or medical equipment. Versatile in their approach, they have the capacity to become an additional medical room for service personnel at sea or a control centre for Royal Marines’ operations.”

What are loitering munitions?

Loitering munitions are a type of military technology that allows for the surveillance and engagement of targets from the air. These weapons are designed to be launched from a variety of platforms, including aircraft, ground vehicles, and ships, and are capable of hovering or patrolling an area for extended periods of time.

One of the key advantages of loitering munitions is their ability to provide real-time surveillance and targeting information to operators. This allows military forces to quickly and accurately engage targets without the need for additional assets, such as manned aircraft or ground troops. This can significantly increase the speed and effectiveness of military operations, particularly in complex or hostile environments.

Loitering munitions are also highly versatile and can be equipped with a variety of payloads depending on the mission requirements. This can include explosives for offensive operations or sensors and cameras for surveillance and reconnaissance. Some loitering munitions are even capable of being controlled or redirected in flight, allowing operators to adjust their course or target based on changing conditions on the ground.

What is the difference between a loitering munition and a kamikaze drone?

One key difference between loitering munitions and kamikaze drones is their intended purpose. Loitering munitions are designed to provide real-time surveillance and targeting information to operators, allowing for the engagement of targets without the need for additional assets. Kamikaze drones, on the other hand, are specifically designed to be crashed into a target, typically with the intention of causing significant damage or destruction.

Another difference is the level of control that operators have over the weapons. Loitering munitions are typically equipped with sensors and cameras that allow operators to monitor the situation on the ground and make adjustments to the weapon’s course or target as needed. Kamikaze drones, on the other hand, are typically pre-programmed with a specific target and are not capable of being controlled or redirected once they have been launched.

Overall, while both loitering munitions and kamikaze drones are broadly similar in terms of outcome and cost, they serve different purposes and operate in different ways.

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