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Future European MALE UAV will be twin turboprop

A future European rival to the US Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper unmanned air system (UAS) will feature a twin-engined turboprop configuration, says a multi-national weapons development agency.

After a 10-month study, the co-contractors – Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault Aviation and Leonardo – selected a twin-turboprop design as the basic configuration for the European medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAS, the Organisation for Joint Armament Collaboration (OCCAR) announced.

Further trade-off studies by the four-nation programme, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain will now be conducted to prepare for an upcoming system requirements review (SRR), OCCAR says.

A schedule and plans for the development phase will take shape in the year after the SRR is completed, the agency adds.

The selection of a twin-turboprop configuration is an interesting twist in Europe’s long and winding route to developing a MALE-class UAV.

The USA and Israel operate single-engined turboprop-powered MALE UAVs – the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper and Israel Aerospace Industries Eitan/Heron TP.

But the European contractors involved in the OCCAR study have focused previous independent and joint efforts on developing various jet-powered MALE UAV types, including the Airbus single-engined Barracuda and twin-engined Talarion demonstrators, as well as the multi-national Neuron stealth UAV, which involved Dassault, Leonardo and Airbus.

Interestingly, BAE Systems designed and flew the twin-turboprop Mantis UAV demonstrator, but is not involved in the OCCAR development effort.

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