France and the UK will jointly develop a new medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV that could enter service in 2015. The two countries are also likely to combine forces on future unmanned combat air systems (UCAS), by launching a “joint technology and operational demonstration” to run for six years, beginning in 2013. The decisions form part of the cross-channel agreement between the two countries. The two agreements cast doubt on the future of the Talarion jet MALE project, which EADS has been attempting to launch with French, German and Spanish support. BAE has already flown the Mantis turboprop-powered MALE demonstrator, which will likely form the basis of the Anglo-French project. France may now purchase some GA-ASI Predator/Reaper systems to meet short-term surveillance requirements, joining the UK. But both countries will eventually phase out the American system in favor of their new joint project.
The question of whether other European countries could join the future UCAS remains open, as the two countries devise a “joint technological and industrial roadmap” over the next two years. Dassault has project leadership of the Neuron UCAS demonstrator, a six-nation effort that is due to end in 2012 after test flights of a single air vehicle. The UK has pursued its own UCAS demonstrator–the Taranis project led by BAE Systems. Both demonstrators are due to fly next year. The Anglo-French agreement does not envision an operational UCAS entering service before 2030.