Eagle Eye manufacturer signs co-operation agreements with French and German firms as it chases naval contracts

Sagem of France and Germany's Rheinmetall Defence Electronics (RDE) are to team with Bell Helicopter to pursue several European naval requirements for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned air vehicles. The companies signed a co-operation agreement with the US firm on 14 June to promote Bell's Eagle Eye tiltrotor UAV to the French, German, Italian and Spanish militaries.

Sagem and RDE will integrate Eagle Eye into the ground control and communication architectures developed for their respective SDTI and KZO UAV systems. They have been working to integrate their designs into each others' ground- control architectures since 2003.

The French navy is expected to launch a competition by early 2005 to acquire a VTOL UAV for operation from its frigates and destroyers. The timeframe for a German project is unclear, after funding approvals for a similar requirement was deferred earlier this year. RDE would head the German bid, while Sagem would lead the French proposal.

RDE and Sagem are also to expand co-operation on fixed-wing tactical UAVs (TUAV), to examine the possible inclusion of the former's Taifun attack vehicle in the joint Sagem-Dassault bid for the French army's multi-sensor, multi-mission UAV requirement.

Sagem is also moving into the small TUAV market, with two new systems. The company plans to compete for a looming French army requirement for up to 520 short-range TUAVs with its Merlin system, jointly developed with Issoire Aviation. The electrically powered bi-wing air vehicle has a 1.6m (5.2ft) span, is 1m long and has a maximum take-off weight of 6kg (13.2lb). Endurance is roughly 1h.

A ducted fan mini-VTOL UAV system developed with Singapore Technologies Aerospace could also meet a French army requirement for a close-range urban surveillance system from 2006, and is based on Singapore Technologies' Fantail UAV. A scaled-down version is also being developed.

Source: Flight International