The latest round of design reviews for the Dassault-led Neuron unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) have resulted in a more than 1t weight increase for the programme's lone demonstrator, according to the French company's industrial partner Saab Aerosystems, writes Peter La Franchi.

"We have a maximum take-off weight of about 6.3t," says Saab unmanned air vehicle systems programme director Mikael Franzen, who adds that the changes have retained the Neuron's intended mission endurance of 90min. "We have established a loiter time of about 1.5h because this is a demonstrator and not an operational vehicle," he says.

In addition to having grown from an original 5t maximum weight, the Neuron airframe has increased in size to an overall length of 9.3m (30ft), with its wing span also having increased from 10m to 12.5m since the initial design concept. The aircraft will be powered by a derivative of the Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour 951 engine that powers BAE Systems' Hawk jet trainer.

Franzen says the programme "is running very smoothly right now", and has recently met its first schedule milestones. "We have done the initial design loops and trade studies, and put together and frozen the configuration. There have been windtunnel tests on the configuration, which seems to be working very well."

Extensive risk-reduction efforts have also been carried out, he says, alongside "establishing the technology roadmap; how to absorb new technologies and to be able to fly on time." The multinational programme's current feasibility stage will continue for another year, followed by detailed design and manufacture work leading to a debut sortie during 2011.

Saab is Neuron deputy lead, with staff in France and Sweden.

Source: Flight International