By Peter La Franchi in London

BAE Systems believes the four-nation Eurofighter consortium could evolve to serve as the industrial vehicle for a European multirole unmanned air vehicle programme if emerging national requirements could be harmonised.

Nigel Whitehead, BAE Systems air systems group managing director, says that, while most European nations are still focusing on their own specific requirements, there is potential for common programmes. Therefore the potential use of the Eurofighter industrial structure as a means to meet shared requirements “hasn’t escaped our notice”.

Whitehead reveals that BAE is already sharing information on its Herti and Corax UAV demonstrator programmes with EADS Military Aircraft, which earlier this month unveiled its Barracuda low-observable modular UAV demonstrator. “We are party to what they are doing in the EADS team,” Whitehead says, with this in part occurring via Eurofighter consortium meetings: “We have shared briefs with respect to the technology demonstrations that have been going on within the two companies.”

BAE is also sharing data with Alenia Aeronautica on the Sky-X UAV demonstrator. “Ultimately we envisage that there will be opportunity to work together or come up with product solutions that meet individual national requirements,” says Whitehead. But this currently remains a “coalition of ideas” rather than the basis of any formative programme.

Whitehead also confirms that the industrial team being assembled by BAE to progress UK Ministry of Defence plans for an advanced UAV technology demonstration programme includes Qinetiq, Rolls-Royce and Smiths Aerospace. It excludes Thales, despite that company being the prime contractor for the British Army’s Watchkeeper programme.

Whitehead says that the decision not to include Thales was not influenced by its participation in the Dassault-led Neuron unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) demonstration programme.

■ Dassault announced on 23 May that it has handed over the first design studies for the Neuron UCAV programme to the French Délégation Générale pour l’Armement, to support preliminary technical definition of the project.

Source: Flight International