Future of Warfare – Loitering munitions preview the autonomous future of warfare (Brookings)

Kelsey Atherton writes: Loitering missiles operate from a simple premise: What if a missile could become more accurate by slowing down? Awkward cousins to armed drones and cruise missiles, loitering munitions were first developed as a specialized weapon to target anti-aircraft systems in the 1980s and now exist as an alternative to everything from airstrikes to mortar rounds or grenade tosses. Loitering munitions can be as small as a model airplane or longer than a surfboard. Typically fixed-wing and powered by pusher propellers, they can resemble everything from matchsticks with wings to Klingon Birds of Prey. Categorically, loitering munitions are autonomous missiles that can stay airborne for some time, identify a target, and then attack. A munition’s loiter—or the amount of time between launch and detonation—is a function of the missile’s sensors and the kinds of targets these weapons are wielded against

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