MBDA has dramatically altered the configuration of its Fire Shadow loitering munition, but plans to have an operationally capable weapon available for user trials from 2010.
A half-scale model of the new-look Fire Shadow is being exhibited at the DSEi show in London, with extensive modifications having been made following windtunnel tests and two initial test firings conducted in April 2008 and earlier this year.
The munition's body now has a more square shape than originally featured, and its previously folding forward-swept wing configuration has been replaced with a shorter, straighter design to enhance in-flight stability.
A Selex Galileo-sourced electro-optical/infrared seeker will also allow for the man-in-the-loop identification of battlefield targets. Finally, large lattice fins have been incorporated to the weapon's detachable rocket motor unit to ensure safe separation from the air vehicle.
The revised configuration will undergo its first firing trials next year under a risk-reduction effort funded by industry and the UK Ministry of Defence, which forms part of the nation's Team Complex Weapons initiative. "We will deliver a capability with a set of parameters - range, altitude and loiter time," says marketing executive Mike Taylor. "We've got a customer that can't wait to have it," he adds.
MBDA says the Fire Shadow design has an operating range of around 100km (55nm) and an endurance of about 10h. However, the company stresses that the current design is a first iteration of a product that could undergo considerable further development over its operating life.
Potential export customers are also being sought for the loitering weapon, which was first shown in model form at DSEi two years ago.