Europe’s Eurodrone programme has been formally launched on behalf of partner nations France, Germany, Italy and Spain, leading to deliveries from late this decade. The contract was signed by OCCAR defence procurement agency director Matteo Bisceglia and Michael Schoellhorn, chief executive of industrial prime contractor Airbus Defence & Space.
Finalised on 24 February, the development and manufacturing contract will lead to the delivery of 20 Eurodrone systems, along with an initial five-year package of in-service support. Each system will include three unmanned air vehicles.
Other partner companies included in the deal are Airbus Spain, Dassault Aviation and Leonardo.
Describing the effort as “one of the most ambitious European defence programmes”, Schoellhorn says: “It will deliver the most advanced unmanned aerial system in its segment, generate more than 7,000 high-tech jobs within the industry and will strengthen European industrial sovereignty, know-how and collaboration between nations”.
“Innovative programmes with strong key technological foundations will guarantee the strategic autonomy of Europe by offering new alternatives to the on-the-shelf acquisition of non-European products,” notes Dassault chief executive Eric Trappier.
Airbus will produce a lone prototype of the medium-altitude, long-endurance design, in support of flight testing to be performed from its Manching site near Munich. An engine selection for the type has yet to be announced.
Optimised for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance duties, the twin-turboprop platform will be certificated for operations in non-segregated civil airspace.
Airbus has previously outlined a programme schedule under which a preliminary design review will take place 18 months after programme launch, and a first flight five years after contract signature.