An Anglo-French defense summit in Paris last week confirmed that the two governments will sign a risk-reduction contract soon with BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation for the Telemos Medium Altitude Long-Endurance (Male) UAV. “We look forward to taking further decisions jointly in the light of the outcomes of this risk-reduction phase to ensure that our respective sovereign requirements will be met in a cost-effective manner,” the governments added.
There was also progress on aligning the future unmanned combat air system (UCAS) requirements of both countries. BAE Systems and Dassault will receive a second jointly funded contract “as early as 2012” to work on the specifications of a UCAS demonstrator. The two companies are leading rival efforts to demonstrate a UCAS–the all-British Taranis and the pan-European Neuron. Both are due to fly this year. Next year the proposed Anglo-French Future Combat Air System Demonstration Program will set up a “cooperation of strategic importance for the future of the European Combat Air Sector [and] provide a framework to mature the relevant technologies and operational concepts for a UCAS operating in a high-threat environment,” the governments said.
French President Nicholas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron are both open to the possibility that other European countries might join these projects. “In fact, we are already working on such possibilities…I have one precise project in mind,” said Sarkozy, perhaps referring to the EADS Germany Talarion Male development.
Meanwhile, France has agreed to evaluate the Watchkeeper tactical UAV (TUAV) that has been developed in the UK by Thales from the Israeli H-450 system. Scheduled to conclude next year, the evaluation might result in a French Army order. Said Victor Chavez, chief executive of Thales UK, “Cooperation will unlock huge potential benefits in terms of interoperability, joint technology development and industrial collaboration, and the twinning of the British Royal Artillery 32nd Regiment and the French Artillery’s 61st Regiment underlines how closely the two nations intend to work in this area.”
A further inter-governmental agreement will be signed this year to support MBDA’s efforts to create a single European prime contractor for complex weapons. The two governments revealed that they have recently given MBDA two study contracts for future cruise and anti-ship weapons. They are also jointly assessing potential enhancements to the Storm Shadow/Scalp air-launched cruise missile. They will sign a contract for the development and manufacture of the helicopter-mounted future anti-ship guided weapon (FASGW) in the coming months.
The two countries also reaffirmed their desire to cooperate on training and support for the A400M airlifter. “We expect industry to offer an affordable in-service support solution,” they said. They also called for cross-channel industrial collaboration on submarine technologies, including sonar; mine countermeasures unmanned systems; and defense satellite communications. Cooperation on nuclear weapons safety, cyber-security and counter-terrorism (including counter-IED) will be extended. The two countries will compare their future plans for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; tactical aircraft; C2I systems; and land combat.
There was also an agreement to create a fully operational combined joint expeditionary force by 2016; and a commitment to have “by the early 2020s, the ability to deploy a UK-French integrated carrier strike group incorporating assets owned by both countries.”