The envisaged date for series production of a European long-range drone is not tenable. The German Ministry of Defence is to be responsible for the delay of at least two years. In the meantime, the project has been transferred to “Permanent Structured Cooperation”. Further governments could join the initiative.
The series production of the so-called Eurodrone cannot begin before 2027. This was written by the Federal Ministry of Defence in response to a small inquiry. At the beginning of the year, the German government had still declared that it “still assumes unchanged” that the development would be completed by 2025. The Ministry of Defence had also published this timetable for the presentation of a model at the International Aviation Exhibition in Berlin.
The Eurodrone is a program of the German, French and Italian governments. It will be used as a long-range drone for reconnaissance of enemy territory and will also operate armed. The German Ministry of Defence describes this as “effect against stationary and mobile targets”. With an “overlapping deployment of several systems”, the Bundeswehr intends to continuously reconnaissance enemy territory for up to five days. Plans include the procurement of 21 drones and 16 ground control stations.
“Expressions of interest” from the Czech Republic, Belgium and Greece
The European defence group Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault Aviation (France) and Leonardo (Italy) have been commissioned with the development of the Eurodrone. The final assembly of a prototype is to take place at an Airbus plant. Spain has also joined the project, but there are no spanish companies involved in the development. The Joint Organisation for Armaments Cooperation (OCCAR) is responsible for coordinating the overall project. Initially, OCCAR supervised a concept and design phase for the Eurodrone, now the development phase begins.
At the end of May, Airbus submitted an offer for the development of the Eurodrone, which is currently being evaluated by the four participating nations. This price calculation must now be brought up to date and reviewed again. The negotiations for a contract will only begin after this has been done. The German government expects the agreement to be signed in 2020. Other governments could then jump on the bandwagon and, according to the Ministry of Defence, “expressions of interest” have been expressed by the governments of the Czech Republic, Belgium and Greece.
Dissent in four-national arms project
According to the German government, the sluggish “harmonisation process” between the participating nations is responsible for the delays. Governments have different technical and operational ideas about the system. The German requirements for the Eurodrone include day and night flight operations, “adverse weather conditions”, turbulence and flights close to thunderstorms. The German government is also calling for the installation of a de-icing system. Missions should be possible in at least two spatially separate operational areas even under conditions of “electronic combat”, i.e. interference by enemy forces.
The aviation magazine Flightglobal first reported on the dissent in the four-national armaments project. According to this, the delays in the development of the Eurodrone are due to the German Ministry of Defence’s demands that are difficult to implement. This had been criticized by the French Senate, among others. With two engines and a weight of 10 tons, the drone is “too heavy, too expensive and therefore, too difficult to export”.
German Ministry of Defence heads PESCO project
For financing purposes, the EU Commission has included the Eurodrone in the “Permanent Structured Cooperation” (PESCO), in which the EU member states cooperate more closely in the field of security and defence. For this purpose, the Commission is providing 100 million euros as “start-up financing”. The “European Medium Altitude Long Endurance Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems – MALE RPAS (Eurodrone)” programme set up for this purpose is headed by the German Ministry of Defence.
The four developing nations are members of the PESCO drone project, and the Czech Republic joined as a new partner when it was founded. The air forces of the five participating countries will jointly test the Eurodrone and develop concepts for training and exercises. Their tasks also include the development of an infrastructure for logistics. Other governments could soon enter the project; Portugal, Belgium, Finland, Hungary, the Netherlands and Poland, according to the German government, are observers.
Image: The European armaments organisation OCCAR coordinates the overall project and for the first time presents a model of the Eurodrone with bombs and missiles (all rights reserved OCCAR).