During the July 20 meeting of the Ministerial Investment Committee, Gerard Longuet, Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs, decided to open negotiations with Dassault Aviation for the delivery of a new MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) UAV to the French military in 2014.
This acquisition will replace the UAV system currently operated by French forces, pending the service introduction in 2020 of a new generation of unmanned aircraft developed within the framework of the Anglo-French cooperation agreement of November 2010.
Dassault Aviation, in cooperation with the Israeli company IAI, is offering a modified and evolved version of the Heron TP airframe. The development of the F-Heron TP will involve, in addition to Dassault Aviation, several French companies through value-added activities, which will generate jobs and incoming transfers of know-how.
The involvement of these companies will allow us to begin creating an industrial structure in preparation of the future of Franco-British MALE UAVs.
Drones, or remotely-piloted aircraft, have become an essential capacity for any defense organisation. Their endurance ensures the continued monitoring of operational theaters without any risk to human life. Their broad range of missions allows the collection of all kinds if intelligence, and the targeting of objectives. Their communication system shortens the decision-making loops, and their stealth design reduces their vulnerability.
They fit perfectly into the mission of knowledge and anticipation, defined by the Defence White Paper as one of the five strategic functions which it is essential for defense and security forces to master.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The above announcement is particularly surprising as the French MoD maintained, as recently as the Paris Air Show in late June, that it did not need an interim MALE UAV.
It also contradicts a statement made by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, also at the Paris Air Show, that France would seek a pan-European industry group to develop its next generation of UAVs.
Finally, it is a major drawback for EADS, and its German and Spanish partners, which had completed initial tri-national studies for a MALE UAV, and which before and during the Paris air show had pressured the French government to award it the contract to develop a MALE UAV.
EADS is also the current supplier of the Harfang UAV operated by French forces in Afghanistan, which also uses a Heron airframe developed by IAI.
More to follow on this subject--Ed.)