EADS and Alenia To Cooperate On UAS Development

 - December 16, 2011, 10:00 AM
EADS has struggled to launch development of the Talarion MALE, but a new agreement to cooperate with Alenia may advance the cause (Photo: EADS)

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. In particular, EADS has been frustrated by the failure of the French, German and Spanish governments to fund development of the Talarion medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) system, after paying for an initial study.

Bernhard Gerwert, COO of Cassidian, said the two companies would investigate a MALE such as the Talarion. An EADS spokesman told AIN that the company has self-funded the further development of the twin-engine Talarion, so that it could fly in 2015 and enter service three years later. “Engineers are working on it every day, and we are selecting industrial partners and subcontractors,” he added. The Williams turbofan engine has been chosen, and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is now part of the team, he continued.

Giuseppe Giordo, CEO of Alenia, said the agreement with EADS favors “the growth of our ability to design, build, integrate and support a complex system for the global market, both civil and military.” Alenia has already flown a single-engine MALE demonstrator called Sky-Y. The Italian company has made considerable progress in developing systems and procedures that could allow UAVs to operate in unrestricted airspace, with some funding from the European Defence Agency.

The EADS-Alenia MoU also covers unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs). Both companies have already test-flown their own UCAV demonstrators, the EADS Barracuda and the Alenia Sky-X. Also of note, both companies are part of the pan-European industrial consortium (led by Dassault) for the Neuron UCAV demonstrator. Alenia is contributing three subsystems, and EADS Spain has built the wings. The Neuron is now complete and being prepared for a first flight next year.

Meanwhile, the other key European MALE project failed to advance this month. A go-ahead for development of the BAE Systems/Dassault Telemos fell victim to the postponement of another Anglo-French summit meeting on defense cooperation, because of the euro currency crisis. The summit will now take place next month.

The UK is not part of the Neuron program, having chosen to go it alone with the Taranis demonstrator. But the Anglo-French defense agreement includes a likely joint further development of a UCAV from 2013, after the Neuron and Taranis programs have concluded.