Under the terms of a Declaration of Intent (DoI) signed by all three nations Monday, the companies will conduct a two-year definition study of a Medium Altitude/Long Endurance (MALE) drone. A decision will then be taken on whether to start development and procurement of the system.
Bernhard Gerwert, CEO Airbus Defence and Space said: “This important step by industry and government clearly recognizes that sovereignty in development of new systems, and specifically in military reconnaissance and unmanned aviation is of strategic importance for European security.”
Eric Trappier, CEO Dassault Aviation said: “We welcome this important announcement, which confirms the legitimacy and interest of our joint industrial initiative started in 2013. European countries must develop a sovereign, Next-Generation MALE UAS solution, for both military and security missions, which is required by our Armed Forces”.
Mauro Moretti, Finmeccanica CEO, said: "The next generation MALE UAS represents a step change for the European Defence and Security agenda. This initiative is a unique opportunity to pursue a joint technological path built on proven industrial leaderships all contributing to a single objective".
Today´s declaration follows the three companies’ submission in May 2014 of a next-generation MALE UAS study proposal envisaging a 24-month “Definition Phase”, immediately followed by a full “Development Phase”. This will allow the delivery of the first solutions in the early 2020s.
In light of an increasing dependency of European states on non-European defence equipment and technology, Europe's largest military aerospace companies launched in June 2013 a joint call for the sustainment of key capabilities to ensure the continent's sovereignty in the construction of future military aircraft.
A definition phase focuses on tailoring new developments to customer requirements. It is the first phase of a system development and serves to reduce financial and development risk to a minimum – thanks to a “”trade-off” process -before the launch of the subsequent full scale development addressing with the customers key issues such as competitiveness, sovereignty, growth potential, compliance with joint requirements or certification. Usually a definition phase involves customer countries, their armed forces, procurement agencies and industries.
The “MALE 2020” Project foresees the development of a European Unmanned Aerial System for long-endurance missions at medium flight altitudes (MALE). Besides being an answer to 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 sovereign European development, critical requirements around the certification of drones are inherently built into the program from the onset. MALE 2020 is orientated to foster the development of high technologies and contribute to sustaining key competencies and jobs within Europe.