Europe's defence aerospace companies run the risk of losing out on the global stage if they do not unite to develop future unmanned platforms, France's defence minister, Gérard Longuet, has warned.

Speaking at the Paris air show, he cited the mistakes made in the development of combat aircraft that sees the continent fielding two competing but broadly similar platforms in the Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

He said that while French companies compete strongly across the world in a number of sectors - Airbus in commercial aviation, Eurocopter in helicopters and Safran in engines - combat aircraft struggle. He said: "Europe is still paying for the rivalry between the Rafale and Eurofighter. We must ensure that we don't repeat [those mistakes] with pilotless aircraft.

"We have to make sure that Europe is not divided."

As a result, Longuet has decided to proceed with the joint Anglo-French development of a MALE UAV, initially announced in late 2010.

A team to co-ordinate the project will now be created, linking the defence ministries in both countries.

"Dassault Aviation and EADS need to talk to each other a bit more," said Longuet.

Meanwhile, French president Nicolas Sarkozy has urged France's aerospace companies to co-operate more closely in order to deal with the challenges of globalisation.

"These intra-French squabbles must end," said Sarkozy. "The competition is too fierce and the need is too urgent."

He said that the government would act to enforce a peace if the companies did not do it themselves.

Source: Flight Daily News