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Given their low radar, visual, and thermal signatures, loitering munitions are very hard to track and kill. Success on a future battlefield may very well be determined by which side can use loitering munitions to the greatest effect.

In August 2018, suicide attack drones grabbed headlines when used in an assassination attempt against Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro . Similar drones were used by ISIS in Iraq and Syria to attack coalition and regime forces. While some media outlets have suggested that ISIS has pioneered the use of the “suicide drone,” regular militaries have been using suicide drones for nearly three decades under a different name: Loitering Munitions.


While the loitering munitions fielded by regular militaries are significantly more advanced than the modified drones used by ISIS, the basic concept is the same. An explosive warhead on a flying unmanned air vehicle (UAV) is flown into a target to deliver precision strike effects.


By most accounts, Israel pioneered the development of loitering munitions in the late 1980s or early 1990s as an anti-radar solution. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was always a pioneer in UAV usage—they reduced casualties and political risk, key considerations with a conscripted force.

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