Airbus Defence & Space (D&S), Alenia and Dassault Aviation have proposed a Project Definition (PD) study for a future European medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV to the governments of France, Germany and Italy. At the same time, however, Airbus D&S may be working with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) to develop what it describes as “bridging solution” for the German armed forces, using the Heron TP. Meanwhile, General Atomics–Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) is quietly confident that Germany may join the European “Reaper Club” that already comprises France, Italy and the UK as members.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has chosen the Singapore Airshow to reveal its latest UAV. The new Super Heron HF is a major update of the Heron 1 that has become a popular choice for medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned missions.
France and the UK have agreed a common military staff requirement for a future medium-altitude long-endurance (Male) UAS, according to Gen. Denis Mercier, commander of the French Air Force. However, he cautioned that the move would not automatically result in the development by European industry of a Male UAV “because there is no money available at the moment.” European aerospace leaders have been pressing for the launch of a “Euro-Male” development program.
Even as French aircrews began training in the U.S. on the Reaper UAS, EADS Cassidian announced that it had received a one-year extension to its support contract for the Harfang UAS that the French air force intends to replace with the American drone. Cassidian also noted that the similar Heron UAS operated by the German air force and supported by the company has logged 15,000 hours over Afghanistan. The Germans are also considering a Reaper buy as a replacement for the Israeli-origin UAVs.
India’s own medium-altitude long-endurance (Male) UAS has experienced another delay, with first flight now expected toward the end of next year. A senior official from the Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO) told AIN that the Rustom-2 project has suffered from lack of access to technology for sensors and engines. “Requirements for ISR are huge in India, given threats from the border. However, Hale, micro and nano UAVs require powerful algorithms. That is where we require help,” added V.S.
A Heron 1 medium-altitude long-endurance UAV from IAI has recently participated in a demonstration of unmanned operations in civilian airspace, undertaken at Murcia-San Javier in Spain. The airfield is a military training base but is also used by commercial aircraft, and the operations of the UAV were timed to coincide with those by other airport users.
While the long-term goal for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is for 80 percent of their uses to be in the civilian sector, their main uses currently remain in the military sphere–although their role in border surveillance and disaster situations is increasing.
At an unmanned vehicles forum in Bonn this week, EADS Cassidian was again promoting what it now calls a Future European Male (Female) system. But the prospects of a pan-European program to match or improve on Male (medium-altitude long-endurance) UAV offerings from Israel, the U.S. and elsewhere have receded. France has decided to buy two GA-ASI Reaper systems, and there are indications that the UK will retain its Reapers beyond 2015, rather than retire them upon leaving Afghanistan.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) announced a partnership with Canadian software house OMX, in connection with that country’s joint unmanned surveillance and target acquisition system (Justas) requirement. GA-ASI is already teamed with simulation specialist CAE to offer the Predator B and/or Predator C Avenger to Canada.
On the day after the merger talks between EADS and BAE Systems became public this week, the French and German governments signed a cooperation agreement on future medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAVs. The two nations will develop a common operational requirement, and may also jointly operate an interim solution. Both countries currently fly the Israeli Heron 1 system in Afghanistan, but their respective air forces have been pressing for a replacement.
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