Monday, May 26, 2014

MALE2020: a European Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance UAV to Compete with American, Israeli Offerings

Airbus Defence and Space (DS), Dassault, and Alenia Aermacchi have announced plans to co-operate on the development of a new medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), it was announced on 19 May.

The announcement, which was made to coincide with the beginning of the ILA Berlin Airshow, said that the three companies had delivered a proposal defining their collective offering, dubbed MALE2020, to the ministries of defence for Germany, France, and Italy.

According to a joint statement, this proposal involves a definition phase in which the three companies will define the requirements for the European unmanned aircraft system (UAS) with their respective armed forces and European industry. This, they said, should reduce the programme risk and keep costs down.

The statement did not disclose a timeline for this definition phase, but added that upon its completion the nations would follow with a commitment to further development with the goal of a fieldable system by 2020.

Although this effort is being touted as an opportunity to develop a European MALE UAS solution to rival those manufactured by the United States and Israel, it is actually the third major European programme currently under way alongside the Franco-British Future Combat Air System and the Dassault-led Neuron. Both of those programmes feature strong involvement from BAE Systems and Saab respectively, and it is interesting that neither has been listed in the statement as being among "the three most relevant European aeronautical companies" for inclusion in this latest venture. Neither company had responded to a request for comment by the time IHS Jane's went to press.

No technical details pertaining to the new platform have been released, but there is a fair chance that it may be based on the Airbus DS (formerly EADS) Talarion MALE UAV. The jet-powered Talarion was displayed at the ILA2012 Airshow in Berlin with the words European UAS stencilled prominently on its nose, after having been supposedly axed only some months previously due to a lack of customer interest.

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