FMV and DGA talk co-operation while project's prime contractor Dassault looks to other potential European partners

Sweden's procurement agency, FMV, is talking to its French counterpart, the DGA, on possible participation in the c300 million ($350 million) full-scale unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) demonstrator project launched by French defence minister Michèle Alliot-Marie at the Paris air show in June.

Under discussion is how the project fits into the six-nation European Technology Acquisition Programme (ETAP). The demonstrator was launched outside ETAP after the UK and other ETAP members suggested areas of future European technology projects could be subcontracted to US industry. An industry source adds: "All we do in ETAP is talk. Nothing concrete is emerging."

FMV says no investment figures have been decided, but French sources say Sweden could invest between €60 million and €80 million. Funding of the project could be approved before Sweden's next four-year procurement plan is decided in December 2004. "One is not dependent on the other," says FMV. Saab is also involved in the talks.

Dassault Aviation, prime contractor for the project, is holding "exploratory" talks with Sweden, Russia and other European nations. "The interest shown in this unmanned combat air vehicle project proves that we are building the foundations of a new type of European defence industry co-operation based on each other's industrial skills and risk sharing in research and development," Dassault says.

An industry source says this new type of co-operation "does resemble a little what Lockheed Martin is doing for development of the Joint Strike Fighter".

Source: Flight International