A number of key European military aerospace companies are involved in the development of a common European MALE Unmanned Air System.
This program is clearly part of a greater effort to enhance cooperation among several key countries and industries in European to shape a European capability.
In 2016, Dassault issued this press release on September 28, 2016:
Since the beginning of September, the development of a common European drone has entered a new phase. The contract for the Definition Study of the European MALE RPAS (Medium Altitude Long Endurance Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) Programme, assigned to Airbus, Dassault Aviation and Leonardo-Finmeccanica has been launched by a kick-off meeting chaired by the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) with the attendance of the programme participating States France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
MALE RPAS will be a new generation remotely piloted air system for armed Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions. Air traffic integration and certification for European densely populated environment are part of the key distinctive objectives of the programme.
The two-year definition study starts from September 2016. It will be jointly executed by Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault Aviation and Leonardo-Finmeccanica Aircraft Division with an equal work allocation. The three companies are co-contractors to perform the definition study.
Following the study, the start of the development phase is planned for 2018, with a prototype first flight in early 2023 and a first delivery of the system in the 2025 timeframe.
Operational requirements of the nations will be defined in close cooperation with the Armed Forces.
“Successfully teaming European nations, industries and defense ministries to improve sovereignty and independence is an outstanding mission, and today marks a new milestone in this innovative partnership” said Dirk Hoke, Chief Executive Officer of Airbus Defence and Space.
“This cooperative programme will contribute to European Industry leadership and autonomy in the strategic field of surveillance drones and will provide Armed Forces with high performance and sovereign operational systems” emphasized Eric Trappier, Dassault Aviation Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
“The European Male RPAS programme is a unique opportunity to promote the development of high technologies expertise, capabilities and jobs, of fundamental importance within Europe. Technological and operational sovereignty will be delivered to Nations, relying on the experience of decades of European cooperation in military programmes,” said Mr. Filippo Bagnato, Leonardo-Finmeccanica Aircraft Division Managing Director.
It is now 2018, and an Airbus Defence and Space press release issued on December 13, 2018 provided an update on program progress.
Another major milestone in the European Medium Altitude Long Endurance Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (MALE RPAS) programme was attained with the achievement of the System Preliminary Design Review on November 22nd. This highly significant accomplishment follows the European Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation (OCCAR) inviting Airbus Defence and Space on October 31st to submit a Tender for the Development, Production and initial in Service Support phase of the European MALE RPAS Programme. This milestone will allow the Participating States and Industry to start developing the System with aligned requirements and a clear picture of the overall system design.
As designated future prime contractor, Airbus Defence and Space will coordinate the industrial response to the Invitation to Tender (ITT) with the involvement of major Sub-Contractors: Airbus Defence & Space, Dassault Aviation SA and Leonardo.
The ITT gives testimony to the willingness of the Participating States (France, Germany, Italy and Spain) to continue with the programme after a highly successful requirement alignment phase and a convincing demonstration of the quality and fitness for purpose of the proposed design.
This successful achievement of the System Preliminary Design Review comes after a two-year definition study launched in September 2016 by the aforementioned Participating States. Three of these States had already signed a Declaration of Intent (DoI) to work together on a European MALE unmanned aerial system in May 2015, while Spain joined the programme in 2016.
Designed for flight in non-segregated airspace, its characteristics will include mission modularity for operational superiority in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, both wide area and in-theatre. The Participating States’ agreed on the air vehicle configuration in mid-2017, selecting a twin-turboprop propulsion system.
By the middle of the next decade the MALE RPAS will be operated worldwide to perform Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions.