As a technology demonstrator, Neuron is not intended to enter serial production, though France and U.K. are both eyeing future air combat systems. Earlier this year the U.K. Defense Ministry awarded Dassault and BAE Systems an 18-month study contract aimed at developing technologies for a potential joint UCAV that could be operational by 2030.
Meanwhile, Neuron addresses a number of technological challenges for future combat aircraft in Europe. The vehicle incorporates Dassault's radar-absorbent materials and structures into the airframe edges and inlet lips and demonstrates stealth-compatible air data systems. Alenia Aermacchi's internal weapons bay development is the first in Europe since the Breguet Atlantic maritime patrol aircraft of the 1950s. Italy, which is contributing about €74 million to Neuron, also produced the electro-optical/midwave infrared targeting system developed by Selex Galileo. Based on mercury cadmium telluride (MCT) detector technology, it is installed behind a large flush window and provides a field of view of more than 90 deg. with a stabilization system for high resolution at long range.
Sweden's €74 million contribution funded the central and forward fuselage, landing gear doors, fuel system and avionics, all developed by Saab, while Spain's €34 million supplied the EADS CASA-built wing, data-link integration and ground station. Switzerland provided €17 million for the Ruag-built weapons interface and Greece's €4-million contribution includes Hellenic Aerospace Industry's rear fuselage, exhaust duct and other components.
With the initial flight test complete, Neuron is to undergo radar cross section trials at DGA's Centre de l'Electronique de l'Armament near Rennes. With 150-200 fight tests planned, trials will resume in April at Istres, where Dassault expects to progressively open Neuron's flight envelope. Beginning in 2014, operational trials in Sweden and Italy will pit Neuron against live air-defense sensors, culminating in a weapons-drop test at the Perdadesfogu range in Italy.