Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS): As well as its “black world” programs such as the Lockheed Martin “son of DarkStar” that was reportedly used in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance role over Iraq, the U.S. is developing a UCAV in a publicly visible program to satisfy the needs of the U.S. Air Force and Navy.
Companies in both the U.S. and Europe are forging ahead with technology demonstrations for unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV), but the military has yet to establish exactly what it wants from its future UCAVS. While this question remains unanswered, the development of production UCAVs will be delayed and budgets withheld.
DGA, the French arms procurement agency, last year spent €9.87 billion ($12.1 billion) on equipment orders for the French armed forces under the country’s 2003-2008 defense budget. This accounted for a 15.3-percent increase over 2003 investments and included €1.3 billion ($1.6 billion) in research funding.
Having flown for the first time on May 29, Alenia Aeronautica’s Sky-X unmanned technology demonstrator is making its debut at the Dubai show, appearing in the static display. The Italian group is also hoping to attract regional orders for its C-27J transport, and ATR 42MP and ATR 72ASW maritime patrol platforms, models of which are on display at its stand (C301).
Saab’s stealthy unmanned FILUR demonstrator has now flown, revealed deputy CEO Ingmar Anderssen yesterday at the Dubai show. The event is a major milestone for Sweden’s UAV research program, which will be used in the design of future air vehicles and feed data into the major Neuron program.
Dassault Aviation had mixed fortunes in 2005 with a slight fall in revenue and net result, balanced by a record 123 firm orders for Falcon jets, up from 69 the previous year and 40 in 2003. At a press conference in Paris on Thursday, chairman and CEO Charles Edelstenne said he does not expect the same level of sales to be maintained this year.
Aerospace and defense group Ruag (Hall 1 Stand A21) currently has two major domestic defense orders in process. The first is for upgrading Switzerland’s Boeing F/A-18 fighter force with a new friend/foe recognition system and error-resistant air-to-air and air to-ground datalinks.
The key technologies being investigated in the current UCAV programs are advanced flight control for tail-less, blended-wing-body configurations; autonomous operation using reconfigurable software; open architecture avionics; secure datalinks; low-cost composite construction; and low observability (for example, stealth).
Having led the way with unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) concept demonstrations, the U.S. Air Force seems to be having second thoughts. Meanwhile, Europe is playing catch-up, but with three entirely separate UCAV demonstrators: the pan-European Neuron, the BAE Raven and the EADS Barracuda. Good technical progress is apparent, but debates about requirements, operational utility and cost are ongoing.
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