Switzerland has chosen the Saab Gripen as its new fighter aircraft, in preference to the Dassault Rafale or Eurofighter Typhoon. Defense Minister Ueli Maurier told journalists that the Swedish package including 22 jets is worth $3.4 billion.
Dassault released photographs of the Neuron UCAV (unmanned combat air vehicle) demonstrator in final assembly at Istres, France, and confirmed that the six-nation collaborative program is on schedule. All subassemblies have been delivered, including the low-observable parts of the structure coming from Dassault’s Argenteuil and Biarritz factories.
Alenia Aeronautica’s standing as a player in the fast-developing UAV market has been bolstered by its role a first-level partner in Europe’s Neuron unmanned combat air vehicle program. Last month, the Italian company delivered the first weapons bay doors and its operating mechanism to program leader Dassault Aviation.
Here at the Paris Air Show, Dassault and BAE Systems have joined forces to display a mockup of the UK company’s Mantis medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV technology demonstrator. The combined exhibit highlights the recent agreement between the two companies to codevelop the Telemos UAS to meet the needs of both British and French armed forces.
The first flight of the Northrop Grumman X-47B demonstrator for the U.S. Navy took place at Edwards AFB on February 4. Northrop Grumman which has been working on the Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) contract since August 2007, rolled out the first of two air vehicles in December 2008 and originally predicted a first flight in late 2009.
Major subassemblies for the Neuron UCAV technology demonstrator have been delivered to Dassault Aviation, which acts as prime contractor and design authority for this pan-European project. Sweden-based Saab handed over the front and central sections, while HAI in Greece delivered the rear fuselage.
France and the UK will jointly develop a new medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV that could enter service in 2015. The two countries are also likely to combine forces on future unmanned combat air systems (UCAS), by launching a “joint technology and operational demonstration” to run for six years, beginning in 2013. The decisions form part of the cross-channel agreement between the two countries.
While the British are touting their UCAV capabilities to the world, the six European countries that have partnered to produce the Neuron UCAV demonstrator are quietly getting on with their own tasks.
The British government is reviewing a security agreement signed previously with the U.S. that could preclude future cooperation with Europe on unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs). Last week’s unveiling of the all-British Taranis stealthy UCAV demonstrator by BAE Systems has brought renewed focus on whether European governments and industry can or should unite to fully develop such a system.
After pioneering digital design in the aerospace industry 25 years ago, Dassault Aviation has implemented what it calls “the digital factory.” The Falcon 7X was the first aircraft to be produced using this concept, and the result was some impressive gains in manufacturing efficiency. Now Dassault has taken digitization one step further, by simulating the processes of aircraft completion and maintenance.