French president Jacques Chirac was scheduled to officially launch the next phase of the Dassault-led Neuron programme at the Paris air show on 13 June, unveiling a full-scale mock-up of the unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) technology demonstrator.
Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland are all expected to have signed agreements by this week to participate in the €400 million ($500 million) initiative, which is led by the French defence ministry. Dassault will receive 50% of the programme workshare, with memoranda of understandings already signed with Alenia Aeronautica, EADS, Hellenic Aerospace Industries, Ruag Aerospace and Saab.
Dassault chairman and chief executive Charles Edelstenne says the Neuron project will result in a UCAV with much lower costs than previous European collaborative programmes. “We are not driving costs down yet, as it is only a technology demonstrator phase, but if the chiefs of staff transform it into an industrial phase, we would have to set up an organisation like the [Dassault Falcon] 7X virtual plateau with all companies integrated, but with a clear leader,” he says. Dassault believes the Neuron will also provide a lower-cost alternative to a US-led UCAV effort backed by the UK and will become the pre-eminent European UCAV. The demonstrator is to fly in 2009-10.
Source: Flight International