A joint European UAS? National interests come first

Europe is not united – that is a fact. But when it comes to weapon systems, it seems that in some cases moves are made to create an impression of joint development and acquisitions – but the reality is totally different.

While in politics differences are clear and no one is trying to disguise them, when it comes to arming European countries the national interests are sometimes fuzzy.

One major effort in recent years has been aimed at developing a common European medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned air system (UAS).

The effort was shared by France, Germany and Italy. Negotiations were carried out with the UK but did not result in a defined programme.

The potential operators – or more precisely Germany and France – went to Israel to get solutions. However, as Europe is not one nation, to put it mildly, these negotiations went in different directions.

The latest development has seen Germany evaluating the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron-TP UAS in a totally separate process from the one France began two years ago.

This is a result of the French decision to freeze the plan to acquire the IAI/Dassault Heron-TP, following the nation’s presidential elections and a reassessment of France’s defence needs. This is expected to be complete early next year.

In the past Germany was not formally part of the French UAS acquisition plan – but it was expected to follow if a decision was made by France. Now the Germans have expressed their intention to evaluate the Heron-TP independently.

Senior Israeli sources said the Germans are in the process of evaluating the Heron-TP, adding: “The talks continue and it is clear that the Germans want to make their own decision.”

However, the source believes there is a “good chance” that after the new White Paper on French national defence needs is ready, negotiations with Paris on the Heron-TP will resume.

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