Europe must not run the risk of having two Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) unmanned air vehicle (UAV) programmes, warns Louis Gallois, CEO of EADS. “We already have the experience with combat aircraft,” he says, insinuating a reference to the Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale both of which EADS have a stake in, although the stake in the first is much bigger than in the second.
Talarion. Image credit: EADS
EADS has been self-financing development of a MALE UAV named the Talarion, but its potential customers -- France, Germany and Spain -- have yet to give it a clear nod. The project was unveiled at the Paris Air Show in 2009 and since then was supposedly cancelled, then back on track. Dassault Aviation and Thales teamed up with Indra and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to make an offer in May 2008 to France and Spain of the Système de Drone MALE (SDM). The system is based on the Heron TP air vehicle from IAI.
To complicate matters further, France and the UK agreed last June to launch joint technology studies for developing a ... yes, you've guessed it: MALE UAV for Europe.
Gallois says EADS “has the best expertise on MALE drones and we expect this to be recognised when the choice is made for the European MALE program.” EADS has manufactured the Harfang MALE UAV (with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) further aiding in manufacturing the aerial platform and subsystems) which is battle-proven in Afghanistan and has a flying demonstrator, the Barracuda, which has flown two test campaigns both at Goose Bay Air Force Base in Canada clocking up a total four hours and 15 minutes of flight hours in 2009 and 2010. “It would be good sense to use this expertise,” he says “and my wish is that we have one program not two.”
Harfang photo credit: EADS
The Barracuda. Photo credit: EADS
A decision on the European MALE UAV program is dragging. It was to have been taken in 2010 and wasn't, but whether one will be taken in 2011 is anybody's guess.