The ambitious project of Germany, France, Italy, and Spain to create a large military drone has finally turned into a practical plane - a major contract worth $ 7.1 billion for a period of five years has been signed.
Europeans began work on the project to create an autonomous aircraft Eurodrone in 2015. In addition to the drone itself, the project participants want to acquire new competencies in the field of drone construction. Along the way, it was supposed to reduce the complete dependence of Europe on the United States in the supply of drones. It is difficult to say which of these motivations is more significant. Having your own unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is perhaps the least weighty argument in favor of an expensive undertaking. After all, the United States is selling its MQ-9 Reaper drones to Europe, and the Israelis are selling their Herons. No one intends to deny Western Europe supplies.
However, the negotiations were obviously dragging on. The Europeans sat down at the negotiating table several times, but all to no avail. The failures, judging by the leaks concerning another project, were due, oddly enough, to a lack of trust. With all the external manifestations of unshakable solidarity, Europe has not overcome suspicion towards each other.
This mistrust was most evident in the sixth-generation European fighter program known as the Future Combat Air System (FCAS). The European fighter of the future, the layout of which was demonstrated several years ago, will not be embodied in metal. And as it turned out, the problem is that France and Germany cannot agree on a cooperation agreement consisting of only seven points.
And they stumbled over two points of the agreement, one of which, in particular, concerns intellectual property rights. In France, it is suspected that the German defense industry participating in the program intends to gain access to French technologies. Berlin allegedly wants to steal Parisian secrets for its own projects.
A key role in the development of FCAS will belong to the French company Dassault Aviation, as the most advanced in the ideology and technology of the sixth generation fighter. The same company is key in the creation of Eurodrone. It is impossible to say with certainty whether the French have real reasons to suspect the Germans or they simply succumbed to the influence of historical memory. The Germans, on the other hand, portray sincere bewilderment with all their appearance. The same distrust to some extent hindered the signing of the UAV contract.
The appearance of the European drone is clearly borrowed from the single-engine American MQ-9 Reaper operated by the armed forces of Western Europe. Unlike the American model, Eurodrone will be twin-engine. Wingspan - 26 meters, height - 6 and length - 16 meters. With a maximum takeoff weight of 11 tons, the drone will be able to carry a payload weighing 2.3 tons. The layout concept is modular, so the drone can be quickly re-equipped with various equipment for reconnaissance or reconnaissance, surveillance or target designation, as well as combat operations.
It is assumed that this drone will be able to reach speeds of up to 500 kilometers per hour. In the air, it should, according to the initiators of the project, be from 18 to 40 hours, depending on the payload.
Technical requirements and specifications are agreed between the end users - Germany, Spain, France and Italy. The formal customer and coordinator was the European Defense Agency. The main industrial partners who will have to establish the production of Eurodrone systems in the future will be the French company Dassault Aviation, the Italian Leonardo and the Spanish division of Airbus Spain.
“Eurodrone will be the most advanced unmanned aerial system in its segment and will create more than seven thousand high-tech jobs in Europe. This will strengthen European industrial sovereignty, know-how and cooperation between countries,” said Mike Shellhorn, head of Airbus' defense and space division.
Subsequently, the project participants plan to use the developed technologies and qualifications to create a future fighter, as well as in their even more distant project - an unmanned stealth strategic bomber.