Germany could be within weeks of making a decision which will have a major influence on the viability of Cassidian’s Talarion unmanned air system (UAS) programme, while the EADS company is maintaining its call for France and the UK to also become involved.
A long-proposed solution for the UAS requirements of France, Germany and Spain, Talarion has already attracted the interest of the Turkish defence ministry and industry, and from Madrid. However, no concrete financial commitment has been made to the initiative so far from potential operators.
“Germany is about to make up its mind,” Cassidian chief executive Dr Stefan Zoller said on the eve of the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) exhibition in London on 12 September. Its decision could be pivotal to the Talarion’s future success, with procurement budgets tight and France is considering its equipment options under the terms of a defence treaty with the UK, with BAE Systems and Dassault offering the Telemos.
With Cassidian continuing to fund risk-reduction activities using its own money, finding a solution is of growing importance to the company, which has already spent around €500 million ($684 million) in pursuing Europe’s medium-altitude, long-endurance UAS requirements. The company earlier this year outlined a goal to secure around €300 million from backers to complete risk-reduction work and fly a prototype by around 2015.
“There is no deadline [for company funding to end], but I hope that the decisions are imminent,” Zoller said. “I can hardly see a solution where two nations can do it on their own, or three nations. Either we run a fully European programme, or we are out of the game.”
Repeating past warnings about the pace of progress in European collaboration in the unmanned sector, he added: “We are losing momentum in key areas, while playing tactically here and there.”
Despite its current frustration in Europe, Cassidian is unable to go to nations beyond the continent to offer participation in the continued development of the Talarion, due to the constraints imposed on the sale of such systems under the international Missile Technology Control Regime.
Separately, Cassidian has begun adjusting to a new operating model. Introduced on 1 August, this sees the company focussing its attention largely on 10 countries viewed as being of particular strategic importance across its multiple business sectors.
While this is initially a challenging shift, Zoller points to EADS’s decade-long focus on multi-national integration. “No other company had the experience of the last 10 years of bridging nations and cultures in Europe,” he said. “That should pave the way to accelerate on the global set-up.”