Sweden's Defence Materiel Administration has signed a letter of intent with France's DGA procurement agency to develop an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) demonstrator. Its first flight is expected to take place in 2008 (Flight International, 28 October-3 November 2003).

In parallel, Saab has signed a memorandum of understanding with Dassault Aviation, prime contractor on the €300 million ($372 million)project, which was launched by French defence minister Michéle Alliot-Marie at last June's Paris air show.

Saab's financial investment in the project is not being revealed for the moment, but it "will play a significant role in the development of the UCAV" as a major partner in the initiative, says Dassault.

"This is an extremely important step for the development of Swedish UAV technology," says Lennart Sindhal, general manager at Saab Aerosystems. Expertise acquired through the project in the fields of advanced aeronautics, unmanned flight control, stealth technology and network-centric operations will also benefit the Saab/BAE Systems Gripen combat aircraft and Saab's own UAV projects, says the Swedish company.

Dassault, which will receive the UCAV development contract this year from the DGA, says development of its own UCAV demonstrator continues, with the Moyen Duc drone scheduled to make its first flight this year at the flight test centre in Istres, near Marseilles. "Moyen Duc is a technological brick for the future UCAV...whatever we learn from it will be funnelled into the UCAV demonstrator," Dassault says.

"This is a highly innovative way of industrial co-operation for Europe, based on real industrial skills and financial risk sharing," Dassault notes. The UCAV demonstration project remains open to other European partners.

Source: Flight International