L-297 Loitering Munitions

February 2024
Jakob Breiner, Matt Ferran

Loitering munitions (LM) are hybrid weapon systems with characteristics of missiles and drones
(UAV´s - unmanned aerial vehicles). This combination provides them with unique capabilities,
formerly unknown to weapon systems, i.e., retrievability and reuse, long flight endurance while
providing ISR data, non-deterministic flight trajectory, battery powered propulsion systems and
others. These features challenge NATO and MSIAC nations as no existing safety & suitability for
service (S3) program provides a sound match to this comparably new type of munition systems.
Based on their close relation to UAVs, airworthiness certification is at hand too, but no loitering
munition is known to be developed according to such a requirement.

This report spotlights the backgrounds including a definition of loitering munitions, comparison to
UAVs or improvised weaponized UAVs, which are seen daily in media reports of the Ukraine war.
Survey results are available to highlight the major areas of concern from NATO/MSIAC nations as
well as their current progress in their S3 process. The LM system state of the art is analysed in terms
of categorization, safety arming and functioning procedures, energy sources, airworthiness
standards as well as software and electronics safety (incl. electronic warfare vulnerability). Based on
the state of the art, the challenges for S3 programs are derived, which range from life cycle
environmental profiles (incl. a generic example based on the ISAF operation), arming and munition
safety over the lifecycles as well as the unique capabilities of LM and their interconnection with
airworthiness certification elements.

The big picture generated by the various analyses serves as foundation for a drafted S3 strategy.
Core is a fine-grained LM classification system and a flow-chart process which identifies the
applicable NATO standards and additional assessments based on the individual LM system
characteristics. Two example paths are proposed for basic LM (small, expendable systems) and
complex LM (larger systems which require airworthiness certification elements for safe operation).
Concludingly, a fast S3 program proposal based on AAS3P-11 for basic LM and considerations for
commercially available LM are sketched.

Contact us for more information

Jakob Breiner
Warhead Technology TSO
+32 2 707 3844