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  • Entente Cordiale
    Posted by Bill Sweetman 4:35 PM on Feb 18, 2012

    There are three parts to the UAV accords:  France to evaluate Watchkeeper; Dassault and BAE to continue joint work on MALE UAV (presumably in Mantis/Heron TP/Reaper class, multisensor and civil-airspace capable); and Dassault/BAE to collaborate on UCAV for high-threat environments.

    The last one clearly builds on Neuron and Taranis. The announcement would not make a lot of sense, either, unless both sides are willing to share domestic stealth technology and resources (and doubtless, from Dassault's point of view, to protect French technology from being passed to the US). And before you knock European technology -- where is the world's largest indoor RCS range?

    It gets even more interesting when you look at the Neuron goal, which is to demonstrate the ability to search an area with an imaging infrared sensor, ID a specific target and hit it with a short-range weapon.

    I don't think that it's extrapolating too far to suggest that the prime target would be a long-range mobile SAM system, and that the idea is that the drone would be cued by off-board electronic surveillance, fly into the target area and start looking for the target.

    A smart search system would use terrain data to refine the search, because these are big vehicles that can't go everywhere. Moreover, double-digit SAM components are distinctive, and Selex Galileo (which is doing the Neuron payload) has worked harder than most on burst illumination laser, which essentially gives you a hologram of the target. Telling the difference between a school bus and an SA-21 TEL should not be that hard.

    It's an asymmetrical approach to dealing with the S-300/400 problem, because it builds on those systems' inherent weaknesses: big, slow, soft and not unlimited in numbers. The challenge is getting the RCS low enough that your loss rate will be acceptable, but that's easier with an all-wing tailless vehicle than with a supersonic fighter.

    Tags: ar99, tacair, ucav, unmanned

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