A preliminary co-operation agreement has been reached by the French and Italian governments and their national defence industries covering Italy's major participation in Europe's Neuron unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) demonstrator programme, say industry sources.

Alenia Aeronautica will act as prime contractor for Italian industry in the Neuron project, which is headed by France's DGA procurement agency and Dassault. The Italian company will contribute to the programme by providing the demonstrator's flight data and electrical systems, as well as supporting its smart integrated weapons bay, which will pass information from onboard sensors to munitions.

The work will build on Alenia's experience acquired through programmes such as the Eurofighter Typhoon and its ongoing Sky-X UCAV demonstrator effort, which is expected to lead to first flight early this year. Italy's Galileo Avionica is expected to support the programme by providing surveillance and targeting sensors.

Italian investment in the programme is expected to be around €75-80 million ($100-106 million), roughly equivalent to the commitment made by Sweden, France's other major partner. Greece, Spain and Switzerland are also expected to participate. The DGA is acting as the executive agency for the programme and is expected to award a contract to Dassault early this year.

Source: Flight International