By Jon Lake and Jamie Hunter

Two interesting UAV models on the Dassault stand illustrate the company’s ongoing co-operative effort with Thales to provide interim UAV solutions for the French military.

The first design on show is the Eagle 2, a twin-boomed aircraft based on the IAI Heron medium altitude, long endurance (MALE) UAV. This is intended to fulfil a French air force requirement for a MALE platform to replace the système intérimaire de drone male (SIDM) Eagle 1 UAV. The Rotax 914-engined SIDM drone was based on the original piston-engined IAI Heron, and first flew on  September 11, 2006. It is expected to enter service imminently.

The other model is of the F-355, a licence-produced version of the Thales-developed UAV designed to meet the UK MoD’s Watchkeeper tactical UAV requirement. This is due to enter UK military service in 2010, or possibly earlier, under a urgent operational requirement issued to obtain tactical UAV capability for use in Afghanistan. The F-355 will be used to meet French army and navy requirements for a tactical UAV capability. Like the UK’s Watchkeeper, the F-355 is based on the IAI Hermes platform.

Dassault and Thales are now believed to be working to expand the use of the Watchkeeper system (or derivatives of the system) into the MALE UAV sector, using a different air vehicle, following the collapse of the Franco-German EuroMALE programme. This had been based on the Heron UAV platform, but EADS had proposed an advanced UAV based on its Barracuda aircraft. Dassault CEO Charles Edelstenne has reportedly commented that he considers that “EuroMALE is now dead”.
Instead, Dassault has teamed with Alenia Aeronautica, nominated as project leader, and Saab AB to co-operate on a new, government-funded MALE UAV system study. This aims to define the requirements, development, characteristics, and production of a next generation European MALE UAV System. The companies signed a letter of intent at the show on Tuesday.

Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault’s international business unit, says the company has performed some studies based on derivatives of the Watchkeeper 450/Hermes platform, but had not yet produced a clean sheet of paper design.
The three companies are already partners in the nEUROn programme, which aims to produce a technology demonstrator for a next-generation European unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV). The organisation and partnership model of the nEUROn programme will form the basis of the new programme, which will use capabilities, tools and technologies already developed for that vehicle, transferring them to the new MALE UAV System.

Source: Flight Daily News