On Dassault's main exhibit, a small and distinctive looking black diamond shape leads a formation of the company's current manned military aircraft programmes. This is the Grand Duc, a proposed Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) for the next decade.

Dassault is working on a family of unmanned aircraft under the Aeronef de Validation Experimentale program (AVE). The family includes a medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV, a high-altitude, long-endurance UAV, the Grand Duc and a tactical UAV, the Moyen Duc, the latter being developed jointly with Sagem.

Dassault has already built and test-flown a sub-scale demonstrator of its proposed Grand Duc stealthy UCAV configuration, in collaboration with Aviation Design. The 60kg, 2.4m span Petit Duc, exhibited in model form at the last Paris air show, first flew on 18 July 2000, and was used to validate the aerodynamic characteristics and radar cross section of the innovative configuration.

Manufactured from moulded carbon-fibre composite materials, the Petit Duc was found to have about the same radar cross section as a sparrow, and its two AMT Olympus engines gave it a speed of about Mach 0.5, and a 150km range.

The Petit Duc's blended wing design has been adopted for the larger Grand Duc with few changes.

The aircraft has a stealthy top-mounted intake like that of the Boeing X-45, and has sharply pointed trapezoidal wings, with virtually full span trailing edge control surfaces.

The aircraft has widely separated and canted twin fins (reminiscent of the Northrop/McDonnell DouglasYF-23) and has a capacious internal weapons bay.

The Grand Duc could be launched as an experimental programme by 2007, leading to an operational UCAV development programme early in the following decade.

Source: Flight Daily News