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Fresh delay hits UK complex weapons programmes

The UK Ministry of Defence has yet to decide on a future use for its Fire Shadow loitering munition system, despite having already invested more than £200 million ($320 million) in developing the capability, the government's National Audit Office spending watchdog has revealed.

A result of the UK's Team Complex Weapons initiative and led by guided weapons specialist MBDA, the Fire Shadow project culminated with firings conducted at the Vidsel test range in Sweden.


The British Army had intended to conduct a trial deployment with the roughly 54nm (100km) range system in Afghanistan from March 2012, but dropped the plan; a decision which the NAO says was influenced in part by "system maturity".

"The Department is deciding on the future of this project, which it has spent £207 million to date developing," the body says in its Major Projects Report, published on 10 January.

In another setback for the UK's complex weapons activities, the NAO also reveals that the launch of full development work on its planned Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy) has been delayed, pending the outcome of a government spending review being conducted by intended programme partner France.

The collaboration was originally intended to provide a new anti-ship missile for use by naval helicopters from around 2015. However, the NAO warns: "There will now be at least a 19-month gap between the existing capability leaving service and the new missile being available."

The MoD could potentially decide to extend the life of its existing MBDA Sea Skua weapons as a result of the delay, it says.

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