France and the UK signed MoUs for the first phase of a Future Combat Air System (FCAS) based on a UCAV, and for industrial and military cooperation on the Watchkeeper tactical UAV. But although British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond reported “excellent progress on UAVs” after a meeting with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, no agreement was reached on joint-study funding for a Male UAV.
Anglo-French cooperation on MALE UAVs may have stalled, according to reports from Paris and from informed sources AIN spoke to at the Farnborough International airshow yesterday. However, it appears that that the proposed joint UCAV study will still be sanctioned when French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visits London on July 24.
An Anglo-French defense summit in Paris last week confirmed that the two governments will sign a risk-reduction contract soon with BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation for the Telemos Medium Altitude Long-Endurance (Male) UAV. “We look forward to taking further decisions jointly in the light of the outcomes of this risk-reduction phase to ensure that our respective sovereign requirements will be met in a cost-effective manner,” the governments added.
The Hermes 450 UAV designed by Israel’s Elbit Systems has been acquired as a surveillance platform by at least 10 countries, including Singapore, but only the UK has requested major changes.
The $1.6 billion Watchkeeper program for the British Army has made Thales the biggest UAV company in Europe, and in its UAV systems laboratory, also known as the Soul battlelab near Bordeaux, the company’s engineers are exploring the requirements for future ground control stations and mission systems.
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.
Elbit Systems is showcasing a wide range of its products and capabilities here at Farnborough (Hall 1 Stand C14). Among them is CockpitNG, a new pilot interface system based on a 22-inch high-definition central display. All avionics components are integrated into a single suite employing touch-sensitive technology for ease of operation.
Hermes 90, the latest member of Elbit’s UAV family, is on show here at Paris for the first time. Its appearance comes shortly after the creation of a joint venture between the Israeli company and General Dynamics to promote the sale of unmanned air systems into the U.S., which Elbit now considers a “home” market.
Two new medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAVs are due to make their first flights next year as European aerospace companies challenge the lead in this field established by Israel and the U.S. The BAE Systems Mantis technology demonstrator, unveiled at the Farnborough Air Show in July, might become airborne as early as next month in Australia.