With BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation winning a £120-million contract, Drones that could eventually replace the current generation of jet fighters have moved a step closer to finally arriving on the battle scene, The Telegraph reported.
The UK's BAE and France's Dassault have signed a two-year joint contract with the UK and French governments to analyse the requirements for building such an aircraft.
The deal comes as a confirmation of the Anglo-French agreement announced at the Farnborough Air Show in July. According to analysts, the unmanned jets could replace the current fourth-generation fighters - the Typhoon in the UK and the Rafale in France.
The contract would focus on development of the technology needed for the creation of the drones – officially known as the Future Combat Air System (FCAS).
With the two-year agreement coming to an end, work could be expected to start on building a prototype drone.
The new contract would support hundreds of jobs at BAE and Dassault, as also at other companies in the programme's supply chain - UK engine maker Rolls-Royce, French engineering firm Safran and French electronics group Thales.
The combat drone could be deployed from 2030, International Business Times reported.
The first formal step would lead to contracts with six companies, including the UK's BAE Systems and France's Dassault Aviation, for a two-year feasibility study, Reuters reported, citing French officials.
This phase of the project would cost around £80 million, according to a statement by the UK government.
The officials said the with the sharing of studies, a demonstrator could be ready by 2017.
According to Bernard Gray, the UK Ministry of Defences chief of defence materiel, the development of the unmanned combat air systems was of vital importance to the UK and France.