Jun 18, 2011 By Robert Wall AviationWeek.com
PARIS - With France and the U.K. looking to pursue a bilateral medium altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft program, EADS warns of creating competing European programs by not going for a broader cooperative approach.
If the French and British work alone “the risk is all the countries develop their own program,” says EADS CEO Louis Gallois. “We need a European program,” he says, if not “we’ll have two.”
EADS has been trying to entice Germany, France and Spain to back its self-funded Talarion MALE UAV program, although so far there has been no government commitment to go ahead with the project. Turkey also has indicated it would join such an effort.
“We are not pleased by the development that we have potentially two competing programs in Europe,” says Stefan Zoller, CEO of EADS’s Cassidian defense business. “We need to have one single European program where even more nations participate.”
Gallois warns that if the BAE Systems-Dassault partnership moves forward, EADS may have to find its own partnerships, with Italy’s Finmeccanica being one potential.
EADS has been self-funding its Talarion work for several years, but now is looking for governments to back a $300 million prototype phase that would last three years and lead to a first flight in 2014.
Zoller says he is in talks with the British government to offer Talarion there as well.
One of the issues for Talarion is it is largely an EADS program, with little other industrial participation. But Zoller says he’s ready to change that. Thales, for instance, could provide the sensor. Other companies could also eventually be brought onboard, when the program enters a new phase. But Zoller is reluctant to open the industrial participation issue immediately for fear of slowing the program further.