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.
Unmanned combat air vehicle
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 Boeing Phantom Ray stealthy and autonomous UAV demonstrator made its first flight at Edwards AFB on April 27, and flew again in early May. The flights followed high-speed taxi tests that validated ground guidance, navigation and control and verified mission planning, pilot interface and operational procedures.
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.
The EADS Barracuda UCAV technology demonstrator performed a new flight-test campaign at Goose Bay, Canada. The company flew four missions focusing on sense-and-avoid capabilities; auto-taxi systems; flight-testing of a structurally integrated antenna; and the exercising of an image exploitation chain, including an automatic target detection system. The UCAV was carrying an EO/IR sensor provided by Zeiss.
Israel’s Elbit Systems and French company Sagem Défense Sécurité agreed on September 15 to form a joint venture by early next year. To be based at Eragny and Montluçon in France, the joint venture will market UAV systems in France and other designated markets, and will take over existing initiatives.
Northrop Grumman rolled out the X-47B UCAS-D (unmanned combat air system-demonstrator) in December 2008 and since then has been busy preparing the first of two vehicles for its maiden flight, expected shortly. Low- and high-speed trials have been completed at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California, where the second X-47B is in final assembly.
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.