Paris is open to offers from Germany and Italy to join an Anglo-French project to develop a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned air system, according to the head of France's DGA defence procurement agency.
"No door is closed" to either country co-operating in the study being carried out by BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation, Laurent Collet-Billon said during a press conference in Paris on 22 February. "We are setting out requirements with the UK and the field is open for discussions with other countries," he said.
Europe's emerging demand for a domestic MALE UAS programme was formally divided late last year, when EADS Cassidian and Italy's Alenia Aeronautica signed a teaming agreement, partly in response to the BAE/Dassault tie-up. Cassidian has so far failed to secure sufficient funding from potential customers, including France, Germany and Spain, to build a prototype of its proposed Talarion air vehicle, which it has designed to conduct multiple roles.
BAE and Dassault have so far proposed a so-called Telemos development of the Mantis technology demonstrator previously flown in Australia by the UK company. The companies received fresh backing to advance the scheme on 17 February during a summit involving French president Nicolas Sarkozy and UK prime minister David Cameron. A new agreement is to cover "planned co-operation on UAS within a long-term strategic partnership framework aimed at building a sovereign capability shared by our two countries," Cameron said.