This paper examines whether the recent (re)prioritisation of great power competition (GPC) as the focus of Washington’s strategic planning has impacted its practices of designing and developing loitering munitions. Despite the increasing prominence these systems have been given in recent Pentagon defence planning, IR scholars have paid surprisingly little attention to the history of loitering munitions and what their study can tell us about the dynamics involved with great power competition. Drawing from Science and Technology Studies scholarship, the first section of this paper conceptualises loitering munitions as a ‘social-technical system’ which can reflect the geopolitical priorities of their manufacturers. International practice theories are then applied to the processes of loitering munition development in four different periods: (1) the Cold War; (2) the ‘unipolar moment’ which followed the Soviet Union’s collapse; (3) the Global War on Terror; and (4) the period of renewed GPC which has crystallized since 2014. The final section of this paper connects these empirical findings to the larger debates on the interactions between technological change and world politics. It reaffirms the role which international politics can play in shaping technological innovation and forecasts Washington’s continuing investment in loitering munitions as a major tool of GPC.