At an eve-of-show press conference, Eric Trappier, Dassault Aviation president and director-general, predicted that the $10 billion-plus contract to sell 126 Rafale combat jets to India would be completed by the end of the year. And he confirmed that the option for a further 63 aircraft was under active discussion.
The pan-European Neuron UCAV is making its public debut, outside Hall 2 here as part of the Dassault Aviation static display. But you could easily miss it. For security reasons, the stealthy, arrow-shaped drone has been enclosed in a dome, with the only public view being through a clear plastic curtain. Dassault is lead contractor, and France the lead country, for the six-nation technology demonstration project. The other participants are Greece (HAI); Italy (Alenia); Spain (EADS-CASA); Sweden (Saab); and Switzerland (Ruag).
An all-Spanish drone has made its first flight and is claimed to be “the first tactical UAS capable of carrying out civil and military missions.” The Atlante UAS development is led by EADS Cassidian Spain and involves more than 140 subcontractors. The venture capital partners are Indra, GMV and Aries.
Europe’s first unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) has flown. The Neuron technology demonstrator took off from the Dassault test base at Istres, France, at dawn on December 1. Dassault is the prime contractor, teamed with Alenia Aermacchi (Italy); EADS-CASA (Spain); Hellenic Aerospace Industries (Greece); Ruag (Switzerland); Saab (Sweden) and Thales (France).
EADS Cassidian reports positive results from a third flight-test campaign conducted recently from Goose Bay, Canada, with the second prototype Barracuda UAV. Five flights during June and July each lasted up to one hour and proved various new mission modes, including autonomous 4-D navigation and cooperative flying with a second UAV. Unlike the previous two campaigns in 2009 and 2010, the latest flights were funded entirely by the company.
Two study contracts have been placed with industry after last week’s Anglo-French agreement on further exploration of a joint UCAV development. BAE Systems, together with Dassault Aviation, and Rolls-Royce with Snecma will work on the demonstration program preparation phase (DPPP) of the proposed future combat air system (FCAS). The value and duration of the work were not stated.
Visitors to the BAE Systems pavilion here at Farnborough are being greeted by a model of a UCAV (unmanned combat air vehicle) representing a notional shape that could one day be a joint Anglo-French design. The UCAV model reflects the UK group’s refocusing of its show presence on “air” products, and the hugely important part unmanned systems are expected to play in the company’s future.
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.
The Neuron UCAV demonstrator was officially unveiled last week inside a hangar at Istres airbase in southern France to representatives of the six governments funding the €400 million ($520.4 million) effort. France, Italy and Sweden each produced UCAV-like flying prototypes before joining Greece, Switzerland and Spain on the Neuron project in 2006.
EADS Cassidian and Alenia Aeronautica signed an MoU to explore cooperation on the next generation of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). This is the latest maneuver within a European aerospace industry that is united in the desire to develop UAS capabilities, but divided by national and programmatic considerations. (Photo: EADS)