Dassault released photographs of the Neuron UCAV (unmanned combat air vehicle) demonstrator in final assembly at Istres, France, and confirmed that the six-nation collaborative program is on schedule. All subassemblies have been delivered, including the low-observable parts of the structure coming from Dassault’s Argenteuil and Biarritz factories.
Thierry Prunier, senior vice president UAV and UCAV programs, told AIN that although only one Neuron air vehicle is being completed for flight test, up to four examples of each subassembly have been built. The additional examples are being tested in the “global integration rig” at Istres, or for other “real-hardware-in-the-loop” tests. Four pre-integration rigs have been used: one at Saint-Cloud, France, for the flight control system; two at Getafe, Spain, for the ground control and datalink management systems; and one at Linköping, Sweden, for avionics.
The Neuron’s Rolls Royce Adour Mk951 turbofan engine has been matched to the nozzle and run for 50 hours under the control by the Flight Control System racks–a major de-risking exercise, according to Prunier.
A two-year flight test program is scheduled, after the first flight from Istres in mid-2012. This will include down time for low-observability testing in a French anechoic chamber, followed by second and third-phase flight tests in Sweden and Italy.
Prunier confirmed that each of the six Neuron industrial partners retains design rights relating to its specific contribution to the project. He agreed that this has implications for any future Anglo-French cooperation on a UCAV, as suggested by last year’s inter-government agreement.