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On 6 June 2008, the UK Ministry of Defence announced that, for the first time, an RAF unmanned airborne drone had fired weapons on operations . This watershed engagement was conducted remotely from the Nevada desert in support of coalition forces in Afghanistan and demonstrates that the UK has now joined an elite group of countries with operational unmanned air combat capabilities.
The proliferation of Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs) is increasing, and supporters of the concept believe that these systems represent the future of air warfare.
In the future there will be a broad range of UCAV systems, requiring a number of different weapon capabilities. UCAVs will use an array of novel weapon technologies, including micro-munitions, Directed Energy Weapons and weapons for air-to-air combat. There are also technologies from guided weapons systems that could be applicable to the design of UCAV platforms.
This paper examines the primary opportunities that are available to the guided weapons industry as this technology develops.