Le Bourget, Paris: France, Germany and Spain have announced their decision to move ahead with a tri-national project that will plan and develop a modular system of jet-powered high performance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The "Technical Arrangement", as the document has been designated, provides the basis for a subsequent study, the task of which is to consolidate the capability requirements of the armed forces of the partner nations in the area of unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance systems and propose appropriate technical solutions.
"This decision is an important milestone to realize a future-oriented and truly European military programme," said Stefan Zoller, member of the EADS executive committee for Defence & Security. "It also paves the way for the implementation of a modular advanced UAV concept that efficiently closes identified capability gaps while at the same time immensely improving force interoperability in this future-oriented field."
Autonomously operating UAVs, propelled by jet turbines, are suitable both for future long endurance wide-area surveillance scenarios and for high-speed low altitude reconnaissance flights over combat zones. In both cases, the vehicle's jet propulsion unit ensures that the required flight performance and on-board energy supply for the operation of powerful sensors and data links are achieved.
EADS also said that these unmanned spyplanes could go into operation by the middle of the next decade. EADS will create two versions of the twinjet aircraft, dubbed Advanced UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), for use in surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
While France and Spain need a surveillance plane, which will fly at up to 50,000 feet, with a wingspan of around 25 metres, Germany requires a faster reconnaissance version, with a 9-metre wingspan and a speed of about 380 knots.
Zoller has said that he wants to build up the company's defence business and UAVs are a key block in that strategy. EADS hopes to secure a fifth of the global market potential of 10 billion euros ($13.40 billion) through 2010, even as it builds up capability to match existing US and Israeli expertise in this area.