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27 mai 2014 2 27 /05 /mai /2014 16:50
photo Dassault

photo Dassault

 

 

May. 26, 2014 - By ZACHARY FRYER-BIGGS and TOM KINGTON – Defense News

 

BERLIN AND ROME — European countries are in the grip of the ever-expanding thirst for drones, which give them the ability to add reconnaissance and strike capability at lesser cost and risk to service members.

 

But while last week’s ILA Berlin Air Show was filled with a wide range of smaller unmanned machines, European companies have yet to create a workhorse drone that can fit the medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) need, filled now by the American-made MQ-9 Predator or Reaper.

 

Three European firms did, however, announce a workshare agreement on the MALE 2020 program.

 

The UK, Italy and France all fly the Predator, Germany’s Air Force is considering buying the Predator when its service contract for Israeli systems expires, and the Dutch have already signed up to purchase a couple of aircraft.

 

With the growing wave of countries working with the Predator have come concerns over the reliance on an American supplier given the export restrictions that can complicate buys and limit access to the technology behind some of the systems. Italy and France continue to sort through the process of arming their Predators, something which US law makes complicated partially because arming UAVs means that the aircraft are categorized as cruise missiles.

 

“The issues at stake include European operational sovereignty and independence in the management of information and intelligence as well as European industrial independence in sustaining key competencies and jobs within Europe,” said a source from the Italian company Alenia Aermacchi. “This is not possible with a non-European made UAV.”

 

Alenia is one of several companies pushing their governments for the development of a new MALE UAV program, including Airbus and Dassault.

 

The three firms are hoping to get commitments from capitals by the end of 2014, the Alenia source said.

 

“The definition phase could lead to a development phase starting in January 2017, provided the early agreement is signed this year in 2014,” he said. That would ready the new UAV by 2020.

 

The three firms envision the definition phase to last about two years, 2015 through 2016, during which governments would set their requirements. One industrial source said the phase would cost about €50 million (US $68 million), with the cost shared by Germany, France and Italy. The three companies also have set up a work share agreement on what is being called the MALE 2020 program.

 

The plan was announced by the companies on May 19, just ahead of the ILA Berlin Air Show, where it was a hot topic. Also that day, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the press, “At the moment there is no pressure to make a decision.” Parliamentary and public debates are supposed to take place this summer, which could be a drawn-out process because of public distaste for unmanned systems due to America’s heavy reliance on drones.

 

Europe has thrashed around for several years trying to come up with a viable plan to enter a MALE market already cornered by US and Israeli producers.

 

Anglo-French interest in a collaborative development waned after initial optimism that a program could emerge in the sidelines of the 2010 defense treaty signed by London and Paris.

 

A project study led by BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation was delivered to the two governments in 2012. Since then the plan has been pretty much put into abeyance as the two sides work to pull together a joint unmanned combat aircraft project.

 

A spokeswoman for the British Defence Ministry said options for a MALE UAV as part of its Scavenger project were ongoing.

 

Airbus, Dassault and Finmeccancia all put their names to an open letter published just ahead of the 2013 Paris Air Show urging their respective governments to collaborate in developing Europe's own technology in the sector.

 

Almost 12 months later, industry has refined its offering but governments still appear reluctant to sign up for a program on which to spend their dwindling defense budget resources.

 

“There is plenty of project push from industry and seemingly little requirement pull from the governments,” one British executive said.

 

While public perceptions of unmanned vehicles are likely part of the problem, the large cost of a major development program also plays a role.

 

An Italian defense source said the government is discussing the proposal with Alenia Aermacchi. “Discussions are underway and continuing,” he said.

 

Airbus, Alenia and Dassault would split the work share evenly, although Airbus Defence and Space will lead the definition phase, the Alenia source said.

 

The firms are already focusing on giving the UAV intelligence-gathering capabilities, long range and the ability to maneuver quickly, including fast changes of altitude, which will be key to operating in mixed air space. Propulsion will also be designed to boost safety as the UAV flies over populated areas in Europe.

 

The system would be offered with all possible variants pre-integrated in the basic design, with weaponization among the possibilities, the Alenia source said.

 

“Furthermore, flight into non-segregated airspace over European nations requires a specific definition from the start, leading to a specific type qualification and certification, which a non-European UAV cannot achieve,” he said.

 

That certification issue became a problem with the now-defunct Eurohawk program, with the German government citing concerns over being able to fly the UAV when it canceled the program. Other European UAV programs have flopped, but the basic interest in finding a non-American solution remains.

 

“European sovereignty and independence in the management of information and intelligence through systems being resilient against cyber attacks would be guaranteed,” the Alenia source said. “The program would furthermore be orientated to foster the development of ITAR [International Traffic in Arms Regulations]-free high technologies and contribute to sustaining key competencies and jobs within Europe.”

 

The concerns about ITAR and exportability have affected the sales of the current European go-to, the Predator, said Frank Pace, president of the Aircraft Systems Group at Predator-maker General Atomics. But there is some hope on the horizon, in the form of a more clearly defined UAV export policy that Pace expects will be signed by President Barack Obama in the coming weeks.

 

“One of the things that has been holding things up is there’s this policy going through, and it’s an overarching UAV export policy,” he said. “It would set up boundaries as to what class of airplanes we can export where. Before this nobody knew what they could buy. I think that’s hurting us right now in Europe.”

 

The biggest issue has been which nations can arm their UAVs and which can’t. While the Predator B has become the primary workhorse for Europe, only the UK has permission to arm the drone, with France and Italy engaging in drawn-out negotiations about arming theirs. Pace said once the export rules are clarified, he thinks Denmark, Norway, Spain and Turkey are potential customers and the French and Italians would likely increase their inventory.

 

“Germany, even with public concerns and everything, right now isn’t talking about putting weapons on the airplane, but one day they might,” Pace said. “I think that’s affecting France. It’s definitely affecting Italy.”

 

Pace said he believes it does not make sense for European countries to spend money on a MALE system that would replicate most of what they already have from the Predator.

 

“They already have the Predator, their pilots are already trained on them, they have spare parts already,” he said, estimating that a new program would likely cost more than $1 billion. “These countries shouldn’t build a ‘me too’ Predator B. They should go build a stealth airplane, which they’re not going to be able to import from the US. I think that’s going to be badly needed maybe 10 years from now. That type of program will take maybe 10 years to develop. It’s a logical thing for them to do, to take the next jump and go develop a high-speed low-radar cross-section type of airplane.”

 

Meanwhile, Germany has to figure out what it is going to do when its contract with the Bundeswehr and Airbus to lease three Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) Heron 1 type MALE UAVs that are being used for reconnaissance missions in Afghanistan expires in 2015.

 

On May 21, Airbus Defence and Space and IAI announced a teaming agreement to continue providing unmanned aerial systems to the German military. The two are proposing a solution to bridge the gap until the arrival of a European-developed drone in 2020. Their offer is based on the Heron TP type MALE UAV and there would be a purchase option as well as continuation of the leasing concept.

 

The Heron is the major competitor to the Predator at the moment, but besides the Europeans, others are also trying to market that space. At the Berlin show, Turkish Aerospace Industries displayed its Anka UAV. So far there hasn’t been much of an international market. The company began the process of selling the aircraft to Egypt, only to have to back out of the deal after last year’s change in government.

 

The next year will show whether any other Europeans can become Predator competitors. ■

 

Andrew Chuter in London and Albrecht Müller in Berlin contributed to this report.

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23 mai 2014 5 23 /05 /mai /2014 12:50
photo Dassault Aviation

photo Dassault Aviation

 

19.05.2014 Airbus DS

 

Leading European companies deliver plan to France, Germany and Italy

 

Berlin/Paris/Rome. Europe’s Industry is ready to develop a next generation advanced European Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). After their call for the development of a European drone at last year’s Paris Airshow, the three most relevant European aeronautical companies have now agreed on further details for a joint approach.

 

Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault Aviation and Alenia Aermacchi, a Finmeccanica company, delivered a proposal for further defining a European UAS to the Ministry of Defence of France, Germany and Italy. The offer proposes a Definition Phase which has been prepared by joint development teams of Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault Aviation and Alenia Aermacchi and which is backed by an industrial agreement on workshare and a cooperative agreement to start the MALE2020 program.

 

The definition phase foresees that the three nations define and adjust their requirements for a European UAS development together with their armed forces and the European industry. The definition phase also serves to avoid costly additional developments during production and to reduce financial and development risks to a minimum. A commitment by the nations on the further development of the European UAS has then to be made after finalizing this definition phase: the plan of the Industries leads to an affordable and certifiable solution ready by 2020.

 

Bernhard Gerwert, CEO Airbus Defence and Space said: “We have reached an important milestone for the development of a European MALE Drone. The need for our armed forces is indisputable. We are highly motivated to continue our discussions with the Ministries of Defence and are looking forward to launch this first step soon.”

 

Eric Trappier, CEO Dassault Aviation said: “It is a unique opportunity to develop in Europe this strategic capacity. For the first time industry starts a project by having a full agreement on the general workshare of the MALE2020 programme. The proposal for the definition phase has been commonly elaborated with joint design teams and therefore demonstrates our industry’s strong commitment to this program.”

 

Giuseppe Giordo, Alenia Aermacchi’s CEO, said: “We identify a clear opportunity for the armed forces to take advantage of an advanced sovereign ISTAR capability to cope with the future high level requirements. Now is the time to drive technology forward and secure Europe’s capability in building the next generation of military air system as well as maintain talent and expertise in our industry. ”

 

Several European nations announced their requirement for unmanned aerial systems. Also the results of the EU Defence Summit in december 2013 allude to an urgent need. The Conclusions of the European Council recognize the development of a MALE UAS as a key capability for European defence.

 

In light of an increasing dependency of European states on non-european defence equipment, Europe’s largest military aviation companies started in June 2013 a joint call for sustaining key capabilities and therefore the continent’s sovereignty in constructing the future of military aircraft.

 

The timeframe of the decision to launch the European UAS is now critical in order to meet this goal.

 

Europe’s largest manufacturers for military aircraft thereby continue the common path for a UAS MALE (Medium altitude – long endurance) program as proposed during Paris Airshow 2013. The three partners are confident in the value of their proposal and are ready to move forward.

 

About MALE 2020

The MALE 2020 Project foresees the development of an European Unmanned Aerial System for long-range missions at medium flight altitudes (MALE). Besides being an answer to the European armed forces’ requirements, it will take into account the need to optimize the difficult budgetary situation through pooling of research and development funding. With a souvereign European development, critical requirements around the certification of drones are inherently built into the programme from the onset. MALE 2020 is orientated to foster the development of high technologies and contribute to sustaining key competencies and jobs within Europe.

 

About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space is a division of Airbus Group formed by combining the business activities of Cassidian, Astrium and Airbus Military. The new division is Europe’s number one defence and space enterprise, the second largest space business worldwide and among the top ten global defence enterprises. It employs some 40,000 employees generating revenues of approximately €14 billion per year.

 

About Dassault Aviation

With over 8,000 military and civil aircraft delivered to 83 countries over the last 60 years, logging some 28 million hours in flight, Dassault Aviation has built up expertise recognized worldwide in the design, development, sale and support of all types of aircraft, ranging from the Rafale fighter to the high-end Falcon family of business jets and military drones. Dassault Aviation posted sales of 4.59 billion euros in 2013, and has nearly 11,600 employees.

 

About Alenia Aermacchi

Alenia Aermacchi, a Finmeccanica company, has a role of primary importance in the world’s civil and defence aeronautical industry, counts a total workforce of ca. 11,000 people and operates in the design, development, production and integrated support of commercial and military aircraft, trainers, unmanned aerial vehicles and aerostructures. In 2013 it reported revenues of € 3.34 billion, orders of € 3.98 billion and a backlog of € 9.0 billion

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