It executed hundreds of operational flight hours during Operation Protective Edge over Gaza strip, but was then grounded to complete its integration. A year later, the Israeli Air Force’s Hermes 900 (Kochav) MALE UAV is again operational. (Israeli AF photo)

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MQ-8C Fire Scout Completes Operational Assessment

PATUXENT RIVER, Md. --- The MQ-8C Fire Scout completed a three week operational assessment period Nov. 20 at Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu, California. The OA included 11 flights totaling 83.4 flight hours where Fire Scout was tested against maritime and surveyed land targets to assess system performance, endurance and reliability of the unmanned helicopter. “MQ-8C is meeting or exceeding its performance objectives and will deliver greater warfighting capabilities to the fleet in the future,” said Capt Jeff Dodge, Fire Scout’s program manager for Multi-Mission Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems. The MQ-8C will provide twice the endurance and three times the payload as the existing MQ-8B. It has a range of 150 nautical miles and a payload capacity of more than 700 pounds which provides unique situational awareness and precision target support for the Navy on land and at-sea with its multiple intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. The smaller MQ-8B, currently deployed on the USS Fort Worth (LCS-3), has flown more than 16,000 hours and demonstrated the ability to operate alongside the MH-60 manned helicopter during ship-based operations. “The C model will greatly impact how we monitor, understand and control the sea and air space around small surface combatants,” Dodge said. The MQ-8C has logged 427 flights and more than 730 flight hours to date. Initial ship-based testing is scheduled to begin in fiscal year 2017. -ends-

Critics Question Hiring Civilian Drone Pilots for Combat Patrols

The Air Force has hired civilian defense contractors to fly MQ-9 Reaper drones to help track suspected militants and other targets in global hot spots, a previously undisclosed expansion in the privatization of once-exclusively military functions. For the first time, civilian pilots and crews now operate what the Air Force calls "combat air patrols," daily round-the-clock flights above areas of military operations to provide video and collect other sensitive intelligence. Contractors control two Reaper patrols a day, but the Air Force plans to expand that to 10 a day by 2019. Each patrol involves up to four drones. ivilians are not allowed to pinpoint targets with lasers or fire missiles. They operate only Reapers that provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, known as ISR, said Air Force Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command. "There are limitations on it," he said. The contractors "are not combatants." (end of excerpt) Click here for the full story, on the LA Times website. -ends-

German Heron UAVs Pass 25,000 Afghanistan Flight Hours

MUNICH --- Following this year's 410th flight on 16 November 2015, the Heron Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), which is jointly operated by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and Airbus Defence and Space, successfully landed in Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, bringing the total number of flight hours it has completed in the country up to 25,000. The occasion was celebrated at Camp Mazar-e-Sharif together with the Luftwaffe. The Heron UAS delivers valuable intelligence and surveillance data round-the-clock to the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) for its 'Resolute Support' mission in Afghanistan. The UAS's satellite data link makes it possible to monitor the entire northern half of the country – which, at over 300,000 square kilometres, is almost the size of the Federal Republic of Germany. The UAS thus makes a meanwhile invaluable contribution to protecting soldiers and the civilian population in Afghanistan. Ralf Hastedt, Head of Sales at Airbus DS Airborne Solutions, underlines: "With this system the Luftwaffe is performing leading services in comparison to other nations. A great number of operators and maintenance personnel both from the Luftwaffe and industry have now been trained to use this UAS, and the experience we have gained on a national scale will certainly prove useful for other mission and when using future MALE UAS." The UAS's availability for carrying out long-term surveillance and reconnaissance operations from the air via real-time video is an essential criterion for all operations in the region. The high degree of acceptance is not least thanks to the hard work of the on-site maintenance team, which ensures the operational readiness of the aircraft and ground stations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. About Heron 1 Manufactured by the Israeli company IAI, Heron 1 is a medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAS for the respective theatre of operations. The aircraft has a wingspan of 17 metres and a typical mission endurance of over 24 hours. The Heron 1's military tasks include detecting booby traps from the air, accompanying convoys and patrols, assisting forces in combat situations, reconnaissance and surveilling routes, establishing movement profiles, long-term monitoring, supporting situational assessments, and protecting property and military camps. The UAS is also used to support humanitarian missions as well as to safeguard the national security of countries. Airbus Defence and Space is responsible for operating the systems and guarantees the operational readiness of Heron 1 in Afghanistan as agreed on the basis of an operator model. To this end, the company has stationed some 40 engineers, pilots and UAS specialists in the region to maintain the system and conduct test flights. This ensures that the Bundeswehr can call on an airborne intelligence capability at all times. It also frees it from non-core tasks so that it can concentrate fully on completing its mission. -ends-

Elbit Wins $200M Swiss Order for Hermes 900 UAV

HAIFA, Israel --- Elbit Systems Ltd. announced today that it was awarded an approximately $200 million contract from the Swiss Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS), for the supply of Hermes 900 HFE (Heavy Fuel Engine) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and an advanced ground segment for command, control and communications. The contract, to be performed over a four-year period, follows the DDPS June 2014 announcement about Elbit Systems selection as the preferred supplier for the UAS 15 new reconnaissance drone program. The Hermes 900 HFE system, to be supplied to the Swiss Air Force, is an advanced adverse-weather unarmed reconnaissance UAS, offering improved operational capabilities. Bezhalel (Butzi) Machlis, President and CEO of Elbit Systems commented: "Switzerland is a very important market for Elbit Systems, and we are very proud of the DDPS' decision to choose us as the supplier of the Hermes 900 HFE, a high-end and market leading platform. The DDPS selection attests to our innovative and technological leadership in the area of UAS, supported by the maturity of our systems. We hope this project will pave the way for additional projects both in Switzerland and worldwide". Elbit Systems Ltd. is an international high technology company engaged in a wide range of defense, homeland security and commercial programs throughout the world. The Company, which includes Elbit Systems and its subsidiaries, operates in the areas of aerospace, land and naval systems. The Company also focuses on the upgrading of existing platforms, developing new technologies for defense, homeland security and commercial applications and providing a range of support services, including training and simulation systems. -ends-

Insitu Wins $71M ScanEagle Order for Afghanistan

Insitu Inc., Bingen, Washington, is being awarded a $70,941,310 firm-fixed-price delivery order (0011) against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N68335-11-G-0009) for the procurement of eight ScanEagle unmanned aircraft systems for the government of Afghanistan under the Foreign Military Sales program. These systems consist of 65 ScanEagle Air Vehicles, spares, support equipment, field service support, establishment of an in theatre ScanEagle training facility and training. Work will be performed in Bingen, Washington (80 percent); and undisclosed sites throughout Afghanistan (20 percent), and is expected to be completed in June 2018. Afghanistan Security Forces funds in the amount of $53,205,982 are being obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the fiscal year. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Lakehurst, New Jersey, is the contracting activity. -ends-

Aerovironment Wins USMC Order for RQ-20A Puma Small UAVs

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. --- AeroVironment, Inc. (AVAV) announced it received a firm fixed-price order valued at $13,015,396 for RQ-20A Puma AE small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and initial spares packages for the United States Marine Corps on October 27, 2015. The Marine Corps employs the Puma AE system as the long-range solution for its small unit remote scouting system (SURSS), complementing the AeroVironment RQ-11B Raven and RQ-12A Wasp AE UAS. “The Puma AE unmanned aircraft system delivers situational awareness directly to its operator in ground, riverine and maritime operations,” said Kirk Flittie, AeroVironment vice president and general manager of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment. “Working with the professionals at ADS, we continue to support the Marine Corps with reliable, easy-to-use UAS solutions that help give them information superiority on the battlefield.” AeroVironment received the order from ADS, Inc. on behalf of the U.S. Marine Corps through the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Tailored Logistics Support (TLS) program. Delivery is scheduled within 12 months. The Puma AE weighs 13.5 pounds, operates for more than 210 minutes at a range of up to 15 kilometers and delivers live, streaming color and infrared video as well as laser illumination from its pan-tilt-zoom Mantis i23 AE gimbaled payload. Launched by hand and capable of landing on the ground or in fresh or salt water, the Puma AE provides portability and flexibility for infantry, littoral or maritime reconnaissance operations. RQ-11B Raven, RQ-12 Wasp, RQ-20A Puma and Shrike VTOL comprise AeroVironment’s Family of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Operating with a common ground control system (GCS), this Family of Systems provides increased capability to the warfighter that can give ground commanders the option of selecting the appropriate aircraft based on the type of mission to be performed. This increased capability has the potential to provide significant force protection and force multiplication benefits to small tactical units and security personnel. AeroVironment provides logistics services worldwide to ensure a consistently high level of operational readiness and provides mission services for customers requiring only the information its small UAS produce. AeroVironment has delivered thousands of new and replacement small unmanned air vehicles to customers within the United States and to more than 30 international governments. The Puma AE small UAS comprises one component of AeroVironment’s advanced, turnkey data collection, processing and delivery solution employed to provide commercial customers with engineering-quality information, on demand, across multiple industries such as energy, agriculture, transportation and utilities. AeroVironment is a technology solutions provider that designs, develops, produces, supports and operates an advanced portfolio of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and electric transportation solutions. The company’s electric-powered, hand-launched unmanned aircraft systems generate and process data to deliver powerful insight, on demand, to people and enterprises engaged in military, public safety and commercial activities around the world. -ends-

US Approves $1.2 Bn Global Hawk UAV Package to Japan

WASHINGTON --- The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Japan for RQ-4 Block 30 (I) Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft and associated equipment, parts and logistical support for an estimated cost of $1.2 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on November 19, 2015. The Government of Japan has requested a possible sale of: Major Defense Equipment (MDE): -- Three (3) RQ-4 Block 30 (I) Global Hawk Remotely Piloted Aircraft with Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suite (EISS) -- Eight (8) Kearfott Inertial Navigation System/Global Positioning System (INS/GPS) units (2 per aircraft with 2 spares) -- Eight (8) LN-251 INS/GPS units (2 per aircraft with 2 spares) Also included with this request are operational-level sensor and aircraft test equipment, ground support equipment, operational flight test support, communications equipment, spare and repair parts, personnel training, publications and technical data, U.S. Government and contractor technical and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated value of MDE is $689 million. The total estimated value is $1.2 billion. This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States. Japan is one of the major political and economic powers in East Asia and the Western Pacific and a key partner of the United States in ensuring regional peace and stability. This transaction is consistent with U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives and the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. The proposed sale of the RQ-4 will significantly enhance Japan’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and help ensure that Japan is able to continue to monitor and deter regional threats. The Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) will have no difficulty absorbing these systems into its armed forces. The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region. The principal contractor will be Northrop Grumman Corporation in Rancho Bernardo, California. The purchaser requested offsets but at this time agreements are undetermined and will be defined in negotiations between the purchaser and contractor. Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of contractor representatives to Japan to perform contractor logistics support and to support establishment of required security infrastructure. There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale. This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded. -ends-

Northrop Wins $121M for Global Hawk Communications Relay

Northrop Grumman, San Diego, California, has been awarded a $120,791,630 modification (P00105) to definitizate an undefinitized contract action for previously awarded contract FA8726-09-C-0010. Contractor will extend the services of the Battlefield Airborne Communication Node Payload. Work will be performed at San Diego, California, and is expected to be complete by June 22, 2016. No funds are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mashacusetts, is the contracting activity. -ends-

US Navy Looks to Unmanned Systems to Fill Capability Gaps

This is an exciting time to be serving as the Navy’s Director, Unmanned Warfare Systems (N99) partnered with Secretary Frank Kelley as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (DASN) for Unmanned Systems. We were able to speak a couple of weeks ago at an event for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, and I want to share with you some thoughts and information about our newly formed directorate we discussed at the event. We are living in a world that is connected more than ever with the surge of technology and rapid information sharing. We are also living in an increasingly dangerous world with contested regions on the sea, in the air, under the sea and in cyberspace. My job, drawing on fleet experience, is to see how unmanned systems and technology can help solve problems we face in contested regions around the world. How can unmanned systems help leverage the capabilities of our ships, submarines and aircraft? While many of you are broadly aware of unmanned capabilities today, some of you have actually worked with these vehicles first hand. Fire Scout and Scan Eagle have been used for several years supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Currently, Fire Scout is employed in conjunction with a manned helicopter aboard USS Fort Worth (LCS 3). This past May, USS North Dakota (SSN 784) deployed and recovered unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) while operating in the Mediterranean Sea. As the resource sponsor for unmanned warfare systems, I’m charged to serve as champion for Pre-Milestone B systems, or systems that have not begun the official start of a program in the acquisitions process. In simpler terms, N99 will be focused on the prototype and demonstration of unmanned systems in a rapid development cycle. We will work with Naval Warfare Development Centers and the fleets to find out where the capability gaps exist and where unmanned systems might fill those gaps and requirements. Next, with the DASN for unmanned systems, we will survey technologies across the research and development enterprise to find the right match of technology to fill those capability gaps identified. Our team will then prioritize these matches for prototyping and demonstration. This process informs our Rapid Development Plan that executes within a two-year period. Within those two years, we’ll also look to terminate those demonstration efforts that are not working out for the fleet in order to reinvest money into more promising initiatives. Through this approach, resources are optimized and technical risk is reduced, saving time and money. I also want to point out that unmanned systems directly support our Sailors, making their jobs easier, more efficient and ultimately, a more effective combat team. As Secretary Mabus has said, the N99 stand-up isn’t just about producing improvements to platforms and weapons, it’s about implementing a cultural change. As unmanned systems continue to come online and mature, we’re changing how we think and how we operate, so we’re not just reacting to the challenges we face today, but focusing creativity and initiative to ensure we prevail in the future. I’m excited to move out with Secretary Kelley with this important portfolio, and remain committed to developing and integrating unmanned systems into our broader warfare areas. I look forward to hearing the input from the fleet and seeing you out there — on the job. -ends-

Triton UAV Begins Operational Trials, Readies for Production

PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – The MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system began one of the events that will be used to support the program’s Milestone C review and entry into low-rate initial production Nov. 17 at NAS Patuxent River. This event, known as operational assessment (OA), will take place over two months where Triton will conduct six flights and execute various operational test scenarios to assess the system’s operational performance at this point in the program. These set scenarios will demonstrate Triton’s collection of data in support of fleet customers while exercising each of the system’s mission areas − intelligence, surface warfare, amphibious warfare and missions of state. This phase will also identify risk areas for the follow-on Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) phase. “We worked very hard to demonstrate system performance and stability leading up to the start of operational assessment,” said Sean Burke, Triton program manager. “We are eager to move into initial production as the next step to delivering Triton to the fleet.” OA is an independent look at Triton's ability to detect, identify, classify, and track contacts during both day and night operations. Part of the assessment is to better understand the challenges that fleet personnel might encounter when they operate and maintain the Triton system. The Navy expects to achieve a Milestone C decision early next year followed by entry into low-rate initial production. The Navy plans to buy three production aircraft in 2016. The Navy plans to order a total of 68 aircraft from Northrop Grumman, with the goal of having the first aircraft operational by 2017. The MQ-4C Triton will be a forward deployed, land-based, autonomously operated system that provides a persistent maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability using a multi-sensor mission payload. -ends-

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Fly-offs for French Tactical UAV Competition Begin This Month

PARIS --- France’s defense procurement agency will begin the in-flight evaluation of competitors for the future SDT tactical UAV system later this month, allowing selection of the winner by year-end after a second-round review in the fall. The evaluations, each lasting one or two weeks, will take place at Istres air base in south-eastern France. The SDT evaluations will oppose two French companies offering foreign-designed airframes with subsystems and electronics tailored to French needs: Sagem, which is offering its Patroller, and Thales, which is offering the Watchkeeper developed by its British subsidiary, Thales UK, for the British Army. Watchkeeper will be evaluated in late June, and Patroller will follow in early July. Airbus Defence and Space, which had not been invited to bid for the Système de Drone Tactique (SDT) program, submitted an unsolicited offer earlier this year based on the Textron Systems Shadow M2 unmanned system, which it has dubbed Artemis. The company is waiting for feedback from DGA and the French army on its unsolicited offer before making a full-fledged bid. Uncertainties remain as to SDT funding The French army has not specified a number of aircraft or systems, but has defined an operational requirement, leaving industry to come up with proposals on how best to meet it. However, as it now operates 22 Sperwer tactical drones, it is likely that it will ultimately require about 30 Système de Drone Tactique (SDT) aircraft divided into four deployable systems. “The 2014-2019 Military Program Law calls for two complete and deployable SDT systems, comprising 14 operational and training aircraft, to be delivered by 2019,” a DGA spokesman told June 10. He added that the competition was formally launched during the fall of 2014, and that it is proceeding as planned, but declined further comment because the competition is ongoing. There are some doubts, given the French air force’s large-scale procurement of Reaper MALE UAVs, the planned development of the Eurodrone 2020 MALE, and the availability of smaller tactical UAVs, whether the French army actually needs to spend so much money to buy large UAVs of its own. “The current worry is that the program might not be completed, as the requirements are very ambitious and demanding, and there is no officially-defined budget,” says a senior official of one of the competing companies. In fact, the SDT program was barely mentioned during May 26 parliamentary hearings on the update to the 2014-2019 defense program law. Gen. Jean-Pierre Bosser, the army chief of staff, simply said that “we expect our current interim SDTs to be replaced by an SDT system,” before moving on to other issues. All three competitors stress the high French content of their offers, the high proportion of production work that will take place in France, and the fact that their solution offers sovereign, autonomous capabilities entirely free of foreign interference, for both operation and support. Sagem, with its Sperwer, is the incumbent; its latest contract was awarded in December 2013, and funded five additional Sperwer systems for delivery in 2015. In addition to those already in service with the 61ème Régiment d’Artillerie, these UAVs will maintain French army capabilities until a replacement enters service by the end of the decade. The three competitors offer three totally different approaches to the French requirement. All three offer broadly similar sensors, but differ notably in their air vehicles, which range from Sagem’s optionally-piloted and self-deployable motor glider; Thales’ updated and “Frenchified” Hermes UAV to the much smaller, and optionally catapult-launched, Shadow M2 planned by Airbus DS. In fact, the difference in size is such that the 250 kg payload of Sagem’s Patroller is heavier than an entire Shadow air vehicle, while at 450 kg empty mass Watchkeeper is less than half as heavy as Patroller. In other words, Watchkeeper is twice as heavy as Artemis, and in turn Patroller is about twice as heavy as Watchkeeper, although they all carry similar types of payloads. Given France’s insistence on maintaining its independent deployment capability, the level of technical and operational sovereignty, and the control of the supply chain, is likely to weigh heavily during the final selection. Watchkeeper Goes French Sagem’s main competitor for the French SDT contract is Thales UK’s Watchkeeper , which was developed from the Elbit Systems Hermes 450 design and adapted to UK requirements. The British Army has ordered 13 Watchkeeper systems, for a total of 54 air vehicles, about 30 of which have been delivered to date. Watchkeeper was deployed by the British Army in Afghanistan. Several aircraft arrived at Camp Bastion, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, in August 2014, and flew its first combat mission on Sept. 16, Lt Col Craig Palmer, the point man for UAVs at British Army HQ, told reporters here June 2. However, it will not attain Full Operational Capability until 2017, he said. Watchkeeper has flown about 500 hours with the British Army, Palmer said, of which 140 hours in Afghanistan and 360 hours from its base in Boscombe Down, in England. British troops prepare a Watchkeeper unmanned aerial vehicle for a mission at Camp Bastion, in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. (UK MoD photo) “Watchkeeper was designed from the outset to generate information superiority [and] its world-class I-Master radar is what is actually adding value. It’s a game-changer” compared to the Hermes, which has no radar, Palmer said. The Watchkeeper variant Thales has offered to France is equipped with mostly French subsystems, including a secure datalink, the same Automatic Take-Off and Landing System (ATOLS) that Thales developed for Watchkeeper, and Thales’ own electro-optical sensors. For the time being, the French army has been offered a Selex ES surface search radar, but alternate radars can also be fitted. For the French proposal, the joint Elbit/Thales datalink fitted to UK Watchkeeper has been replaced by a Thales-developed TMA/TMG 6000 dual-mode (command and ISR data) datalink, and Thales Executive Vice-President for Telecommunications Marc Darmon says the company has all the Intellectual Property (IP) rights to this product, which is obviously significant for national sovereignty issues. “We bought the source codes and we largely re-wrote them, so we have total control of the system,” says another Thales executive, dismissing concerns that foreign companies are involved in the French Watchkeeper proposal. At present, 80% of Watchkeeper components are British-made, with another 15% coming from France and 5% from the rest of the world, according to Pierrick Lerey, strategy and marketing director for Thales’ UAV and ISR business. The company has formed a French suppliers club ( to update Watchkeeper’s main systems, including a new-generation electro-optical payload; a new Communications and ESM payload; a new imagery chain for full HD video; interconnection with the French military C4ISR network, a new ground station and a remote video terminal. The goal, Lerey says, is to bring French content up to at least 35% for the French program, since the Watchkeeper airframe and the (new) ground stations will continue to be built in the UK. Sagem’s Optionally-Piloted Motor Glider While its competitors opted for specific, UAV-sized airframes, Sagem preferred to use a civil-certified airframe for its Patroller, which is almost as large as a MALE drone but offers the advantage of being derived from a German motor glider, the Stemme S-15. Frederic Mazzanti, Sagem Vice-President and head of its Optronics and Defense Division, notes that this means it can self-deploy using civil airspace, that it can be used for training in unsegregated airspace with a pilot on board, and that it does not need tractors or other ground equipment because it was designed to be autonomous on the ground. Patroller’s size also means it offers lots of space for fuel and sensors, and the commercial origin of its airframe means it was designed for simple, straightforward repairs with little tooling, another plus for austere operations. A soldier shows the large sensor ball of Sagem’s Patroller UAV, a large, optionally-piloted aircraft that offers much greater range and payload than its competitors (Sagem photo) Sagem’s offer comprises triplex-redundant avionics, a new fourth-generation Euroflir 41 sensor ball with a 43-cm diameter and fitted with full HD color TV, visible and thermal imaging, and laser rangefinder and designator. Several synthetic aperture radars can be fitted, depending on the customer’s preferences, and several have already been tested. Most importantly, says Mazzanti, Patroller has the capability to operate radar and EO sensors at the same time, and also to transmit their imagery at the same time. This, he notes, is a unique capability in this category, and can multiply an ISR aircraft’s effectiveness by tracking several targets with different sensors at the same time. Most Patroller subsystems and sensors are produced by Sagem itself (EO sensor ball, navigation, datalink) while the others are French-made. Sagem also owns all property rights to the airframe, so the fact that no foreign company is involved guarantees manufacturing and operational sovereignty. With its Sperwer drones, which were operated in Afghanistan by several of the nine countries that have bought it, Sagem gained precious operational experience. The French army’s 22 Sperwers attained an availability rate of 80-85% with support from Sagem. “Our availability in terms of aircraft numbers never fell short of requirements,” Mazzanti said, adding that as operators of the S-15 have logged over 1,000 flight hours per year, there is no reason for Patroller not to attain similar levels. Sagem employs over 100 people at its French plants to build Sperwer drones and its components, and the company also has assembled a cluster of SMEs to which it subcontracts some of the work. All in all, Sagem says that French content of Patroller will attain 85% by value, as only the radar and airframe would be built overseas. With a payload of 250 kg, and a mission endurance of 30 hours, Patroller is a much larger aircraft than its competitors, but Mazzanti dismisses criticism that it may be too large for its intended mission. “It is air-transportable, it fits into a standard 20-foot container, it can land with a 20-knot crosswind and it can pull 5Gs, so its size and robustness are real operational advantages.” Outsider Airbus Teams with Textron Thales and Sagem both “offered large air vehicles that are closer to MALE size, but looking at the French army requirement we thought that a smaller drone, capable of being operated from close to the front line, would be a better match,” an Airbus official said June 9. Instead of offering one of its own UAVs, the company preferred to team with Textron Systems to prepare a bid based on a tried-and-tested UAV that more closely matches the French army requirement, and which is small enough for use at brigade or division, instead of corps, level. LEGENDE: Airbus DS has offered to “Frenchify” Textron’s Shadow to develop its Artemis UAV, which is much smaller than the two SDT competitors and doesn’t need a runway, as it can be launched from a catapult. (US Army photo) Airbus has not yet formally filed a bid, and will only announce its Artemis partnership with Textron next week at the Paris Air Show. The company has so far only submitted an unsolicited proposal to DGA, and is waiting for feedback before deciding whether to invest in a formal and comprehensive proposal. Nonetheless, company officials expect a positive response, and are encouraged by the fact that a team of DGA and French army observers will fly to Yuma, Arizona during the summer for a demonstration of the Shadow M2, which will not fly at Istres. Smaller also means cheaper, and Airbus says its offer – based on Textron Unmanned Systems’ upgraded Shadow M2 – would carry much lower acquisition and operating costs, and thus allow more intensive operations for a given budget, while its small size also facilitates transport and deployment. Shadow is operated by the US Army and Marine Corps and several foreign militaries, and over 300 air vehicles have logged over 1 million flight hours, including in combat. A competitive advantage that Airbus points out is that Shadow’s long service career, and different users, are such that the latest versions benefit from a wealth of technical and operational lessons learned. For Artemis, Airbus would modify the Shadow M2 air vehicle as little as possible to limit costs, but would replace its subsystems or adapt them to French requirements. These would include Airbus’ own Lygarion datalink, a modified ground station, and French sensor packages (radar and either electro-optical or signals intelligence) that are capable of simultaneous operation. Airbus plans to purchase full rights to the Shadow airframe and ground station, and so would control the entire system, ensuring “fully autonomous operations, as well as maximum growth potential, for the French customer,” according to a briefing document. It also says that a “significant” share of production and support – about 60% -- would take place in France, supporting French industry and jobs. In reality, a large share of production would remain in the United States, so French workshare would largely be made up by training and support, in addition to some key subsystems. -ends-

UAVs: France, Germany and Italy to Launch European MALE Program

PARIS --- Three European nations will sign an agreement at the Paris air show in June to jointly fund initial studies for a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said here March 11. France, Germany and Italy will follow up by awarding a study contract in December to an industry group formed by Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault Aviation and Alenia Aermacchi. The initial contract is valued at a few dozen millions of euros. Ultimately, if the program progresses as planned, the nations plan to obtain an operational reconnaissance UAV by 2025. “Our effort in the field of surveillance drones and ISR will increase with, already this year, the launch of studies of the future European drone, with Germany and Italy, that France envisions for about 2025, ,” Le Drian said here during a March 11 press conference. An Italian defense official confirmed the agreement, which has not yet been made public in Italy, however adding “we will see whether it ultimately leads to a development program.” The three companies have been calling for such a government initiative for over two years, and in May 2013 took the unusual step of issuing a joint statement calling on their governments to “launch a European MALE program.…to support the capability needs of European armed forces while optimizing the difficult budgetary situation through pooling of research and development funding.” The companies have a double goal: to maintain the know-how and expertise of their military aircraft design offices, now that they have mostly completed work on current fighters, and to recover the UAV business that is now going to their US competitors – France and Italy operate General Atomics Predator or Reaper UAVs, like the UK, the Netherlands has just decided to buy some while Spain is also weighing buying some. “Originally, [our] idea was to prevent the procurement of Reaper drones by European governments,” but this didn’t work, Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier said here during a separate March 11 press conference. “We’ve been working on this project for a long time, and we think we can develop a drone to replace the Reaper, which is an interim solution. We have asked our governments to state that an operational requirement exists, and we will be able to reply to that requirement.” In parallel, France is however continuing to boost its Reaper force, which is seeing intensive use in Africa, where it is supporting French and allied troops operating in Mali. France is due to receive a third Reaper aircraft in April, and will order a follow-on batch of three additional aircraft in August, according to a planning document released by Le Drian. “We are asking for a contract from the three governments covering initial studies,” Trappier said. “Initially, it’s a question of a few dozen million euros, although it will cost more once development is launched.” The three companies set out the details of their proposal in a second joint statement issued in June 2014, in which they proposed “a Definition Phase which has been prepared by joint development teams of Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault Aviation and Alenia Aermacchi and which is backed by an industrial agreement on workshare and a cooperative agreement to start the MALE2020 program.” The broad lines of the industry proposal have been retained, although the initial operational capability has slipped to 2025. One of the trickier problems to be solved is the integration of the future MALE UAV into general air traffic, Trappier said. The inability to fly in unrestricted airspace is one of the reasons for which Germany canceled the EuroHawk program – a variant of Global Hawk fitted with a German sensor package – after spending several hundred million euros on its development. -ends-

An Introduction to Autonomy in Weapon Systems

Source: Center for New American Security Ref: no reference Issued Feb 13, 2015 23 PDF pages In this working paper, 20YY Warfare Initiative Director Paul Scharre and Adjunct Senior Fellow Michael Horowitz discuss future military systems incorporating greater autonomy. The intent of the paper is to help clarify, as a prerequisite to examining legal, moral, ethical and policy issues, what an autonomous weapon is, how autonomy is already used, and what might be different about increased autonomy in the future. (PDF format) Full text

UK: Challenges & Opportunities of Drone Security

Source: University of Birmingham Ref: No reference Issued Oct 22, 2014) 96 PDF pages Drone technology, both civil and military, under proper legal regulation, can continue to deliver 'significant benefits' for the UK's national security policy and economy in the coming decades. That is the conclusion of a new University of Birmingham Policy Commission Report which launches today. But the Government, and especially the Ministry of Defence (MoD), should do more to reach out to the public over what the Commission sees as the globally inevitable use of drones in armed conflict and in domestic surveillance. The Report finds that over the next 20 years, drones – or what the Commission and the RAF prefer to call Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) – will become an integral part of Britain's aerospace capability, providing both advanced surveillance and precision weapons delivery. They can support UK forces deployed overseas, as in Afghanistan, or help prevent mass atrocities, as with the British Government's decision to deploy the RAF Reaper fleet against the Islamic State (ISIS). This decision was announced after the Report was completed but is entirely consistent with its conclusions. The Report examines the distinctive and unavoidable choices for the United Kingdom over a crucial emerging technology and sets out the under-appreciated distinction between legally constrained British practice and the US Government's cross-border counter-terrorism strikes which dominate and distort UK public debate. The Commission considers various moral arguments and concludes that the current and emerging generation of RPA pose no greater ethical challenges than those already involved in decisions to use any other type of UK military asset. The Report shows clearly that the UK has operated its armed Reapers in Afghanistan according to the same exceptionally strict Rules of Engagement (no weapon should be discharged unless there is 'zero expectation of civilian casualties') that it applies to manned aircraft. Key findings There are three main obstacles affecting the UK Government's use of drones that must be overcome: gaining public understanding and acceptance of the legal and ethical soundness of the practice; allaying fears over the potential development of LAWS; and safeguarding British airspace and the privacy of British citizens if drones are to be increasingly used for domestic surveillance and security. (PDF format) Report’s download page

UK, France to Launch FCAS Demo Phase

PARIS --- Four years after they first agreed to jointly develop an unmanned combat aircraft, France and Britain will finally launch the demonstration phase of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) on July 15 at the Farnborough air show, the French defense ministry announced July 10. The two countries’ defense ministers will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) authorizing a 24-month, €150 million definition phase of the FCAS program, known as FCAS-Demonstration Phase, the French defense ministry announced July 10. Contracts will be awarded to industry in the autumn, and the project will officially begin in January 2015. Participating companies are Dassault Aviation and BAE Systems for airframe and systems integration; Thales and Selex ES (UK) for sensors and electronics; and Snecma and Rolls-Royce for engine and power systems. “There is agreement on a two-year concept phase…[and]….a contract could be awarded shortly,” UK Defence Procurement Minister Philip Dunne told reporters at the Eurosatory show here June 19, adding however that “data-sharing agreements have to be competed.” Physics and aerodynamics being what they are, it is not surprising that Dassault’s Neuron demonstrator (above) and BAE System’s Taranis demonstrator (below) should look the same at first glance. The FCAS will build on knowledge gained on both programs. (photos Dassault and BAE). BAE and Dassault have been working together for about 18 months to investigate the feasibility of joint development of FCAS, based on their separate but complementary experience in developing unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) demonstrators, either alone (BAE with its Taranis) or jointly – Dassault’s Neuron project also included Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi, Sweden’s Saab as well as smaller Greek and Spanish firms. A major question mark concerns the work-sharing arrangements, as both companies are obviously keen to advance and maintain their technological know-how. This is complicated, again, by their previous work on Taranis and Neuron, which sometimes led them in different directions and which may be difficult to reconcile. “We have already shared some data, but we haven’t shown everything yet,” Benoît Dussaugey, Dassault Executive Vice-President, International, told June 18, adding that full disclosure will not take place before contract award. However, having successfully managed Neuron on time and on schedule with an international team of partners, Dassault does not believe this aspect will be a show-stopper. "We are confident we will find an agreement with our partners on work-share, subject to sovereign decisions by governments," Dussaugey said. The program could be opened to additional foreign partners, he adds, on two conditions: "that everyone accepts and respects our common rules, and that the respective governments finance [their share] of the entire phase." Nonetheless, BAE’s surprise and high-profile unveiling of its Taranis UCAV demonstrator in January, which it had jealously kept under wraps until then, was clearly intended to show its credentials in the lead-up to the FCAS MoU. It is probable that, as in the previous phase, BAE will remain FCAS prime contractor, while France’s defense procurement agency, Direction Générale pour l’Armement (DGA), will act as program executive on behalf of both nations. Having successive definition and demonstration phases is considered essential for governments to define and harmonize their operational requirements, and for industry to weigh their technical feasibility and cost implications. For example, will in-flight refueling be required, and if yes using a receptacle or a boom? Where and how should radar antennas be integrated into the airframe? Will FCAS be designed to follow a pre-programmed flight path (which the French favor, as it is impervious to jamming, interception and loss of data-link), or on the contrary be remotely-piloted, as the Royal Air Force favors so as to keep a man permanently in the loop? Should the aircraft be totally silent in terms of radar, radio and IR emissions, or could it resort to jamming? Should it be single- or twin-engined? Once these basic questions are answered, processed and priced by industry, the logical follow-up would be a demonstration phase, during which the project would be further developed and prototypes or flight test aircraft built, but a decision would not be required before late 2017, which makes it very unlikely that a FCAS could fly before the end of the decade. -ends-

USAF Vision & Plans for UAVs 2013-2038

Source: US Air Force Ref: no reference Issued April 04, 2014) 101 PDF pages Air Force leaders outlined what the next 25 years for remotely piloted aircraft will look like in the RPA Vector, published April 4. “The RPA Vector is the Air Force’s vision for the next 25 years for remotely-piloted aircraft,” said Col. Kenneth Callahan, the RPA capabilities division director. “It shows the current state of the program, the great advances of where we have been and the vision of where we are going.” The goal for the vector on the operational side is to continue the legacy Airmen created in the RPA field. The vector is also designed to expand upon leaps in technology and changes the Airmen have made through the early years of the program. “The Airmen have made it all about supporting the men and women on the ground,” Callahan said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them for their own advances in technology to expand the program, making it a top platform.” The document gives private corporations an outlook on the capabilities the Air Force wants to have in the future, ranging from creation of new RPAs to possibilities of automated refueling systems. “There is so much more that can be done with RPAs,” said Col. Sean Harrington, an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance command and control requirements chief. “Their roles (RPAs) within the Air Force are evolving. We have been able to modify RPAs as a plug-and-play capability while looking to expand those opportunities.” In recent years, RPAs not only supported the warfighter on the ground, they also played a vital role in humanitarian missions around the world. They provided real time imagery and video after the earthquake that led to a tsunami in Japan in 2011 and the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, according to Callahan. Then, most recently, during the California Rim Fire in August 2013, more than 160,000 acres of land were destroyed. Though this loss was significant, it was substantially decreased by the support of the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Reconnaissance Wing, with support from an MQ-1 Predator, a remotely piloted aircraft. With this vector, technologies may be created to improve those capabilities while supporting different humanitarian efforts, allowing the Air Force to support natural disaster events more effectively and timely. The future of the Air Force’s RPA programs will be continuously evolving, to allow the Air Force to be the leader in Air, Space, and Cyberspace. “We already combine our air, space and cyber forces to maximize these enduring contributions, but the way we execute must continually evolve as we strive to increase our asymmetric advantage,” said Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff. “Our Airmen's ability to rethink the battle while incorporating new technologies will improve the varied ways our Air Force accomplishes its missions.” (PDF format) Full text

Airbus Plots Return to UAV Market

MADRID --- Airbus Defense and Space is preparing to return to the UAV market, three years after it was forced out by the reluctance of the French and German governments to financially support any of the unmanned aircraft projects which it had developed. “We are revisiting our strategy on unmanned aerial vehicles with a vision to leadership,” Antonio Rodríguez Barberán, Head of Military Aircraft sales at Airbus Defence and Space, told “We are planning to be there, even if it takes some years.” This is a major shift in company policy, as Airbus Group decided in 2011 to freeze its UAV activities after having invested over 500 million euros in several programs without having convinced its domestic customers that they were worth supporting. Corporate strategy, at the time, was to sit out until European governments decided which programs, and which companies, they would support. This approach was not very successful, however, as Airbus was frozen out of two major market segments: Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE), where France preferred buying Reaper unmanned aircraft from the United States, with Germany and the Netherlands to follow shortly, and the High Altitude Lone Endurance (HALE) segment, where its EuroHawk program was abruptly cancelled by the Germen government because of cost and regulatory failings. The company was left with only smaller UAVs, a segment where competition is rife and margins small. Airbus has now changed tack because “it’s time for a proper aircraft manufacturer to get involved, to certify UAVs to civilian standards – and I mean FAR 23 and FAR 25 – so they can be used in unsegregated airspace,” Rodriguez said. At present, UAVs can only be used in segregated airspace, under military air regulations, and so are severely limited in their operational usefulness. While it has no immediate plans to resume large-scale investments in the UAV sector, Airbus DS does not see financing as a major obstacle. “We know there is a market, and if there is a market there is money,” Rodriguez said. He adds that for Airbus this is a decade-long project, which will eventually bring it a leading role: “Airbus is not here to be a subcontractor,” he says, making clear that the company is not aiming for a subordinate role in ongoing European UAV programs. While waiting for the MALE market to mature, and for the dust to settle in the combat UAV (UCAV) segment, Airbus is finalizing development of its own tactical UAV, Atlante, which is significantly smaller than the MALE and HALE segments it previously pursued. Weighing about 550 kg, Atlante has been developed in Spain, and from the outset the goal has been to fly in segregated civilian airspace, i.e. over populated areas, and it is intended to be certified for that operational environment. “The key word here is ‘certification’,” Rodriguez says, adding that, of course, “it has to offer value for money.” Atlante first flew in February 2013, Light Transport Aircraft Sector Gliding Along While its UAV strategy matures, Airbus DS continues to improve its transport aircraft product line. It recently agreed with Indonesian partner IPT Nurtanio, also known as Indonesian Aerospace, to develop a modernized version of the C-212 light twin turboprop transport, and it also is refining the performance of the C-295, its very successful medium twin. Most of the effort is on refining the airframe design, for example by adding wingtip extensions, and on increasing engine power ratings, which together add 1,000 ft. to the aircraft’s ceiling in One Engine Inoperative (OEI) conditions. The C295’s Pratt & Whitney engines are already at their power limit, so they have no more growth potential, so these refinements, together with a major upgrade of the aircraft’s avionics, will suffice to keep them competitive for years to come, says Rodriguez. The avionics upgrade will make it easier for the aircraft to operate in a civil environment. A new design may well be necessary in 10 or 15 years, he adds, but for now it is still very premature. The current line-up is quite profitable for the company, and currently accounts for average sales of about 20 aircraft per year, worth about 700-800 million euros including 100-150 million euros for related services. Over the past 10 years, Airbus has sold 157 of the 306 light/medium turboprops sold world-wide, and so has a market share of over 50%, and this should increase as additional orders will be announced this year, one of them “by Easter.” Compared to the Alenia C-27J Spartan, its direct competitor, the C-295 is simple, offers substantially lower fuel costs and “can be maintained with a hammer and a screwdriver,” Rodriguez says. Specifically, he says that maintenance costs are 35% lower, fuel consumption is 50% lower and, in terms of life-cycle costs, “it can save one million euros per plane, per year.” -ends-

US Unmanned Vehicle Roadmap, FY2013-38

Source: U.S Department of Defense Ref: 14-S-0553 Issued December 26, 2013 168 PDF pages Strategy and budget realities are two aspects of the Defense Department's new Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap, released Dec. 23. The report to Congress is an attempt to chart how unmanned systems fit into the defense of the nation. "The 2013 Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap articulates a vision and strategy for the continued development, production, test, training, operation and sustainment of unmanned systems technology across DOD," said Dyke Weatherington, the director of the unmanned warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance office at the Pentagon. "This road map establishes a technological vision for the next 25 years and outlines the actions and technologies for DOD and industry to pursue intelligently, and affordably align with this vision," he continued. Unmanned aerial vehicles have received the most press, but unmanned underwater vehicles and ground vehicles are also providing warfighters with incredible capabilities. Although unmanned vehicles have proved their worth in combat operations throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, current technologies must be expanded and integrated into the sinews of the defense establishment, the report says. It also calls for unmanned systems to be programs of record in order to achieve "the levels of effectiveness, efficiency, affordability, commonality, interoperability, integration and other key parameters needed to meet future operational requirements." (PDF format) Full text

Was Watchkeeper Grounded for 3 Months?

PARIS --- The service introduction of Watchkeeper, the tactical UAV that has been in development for the British Army since 2005, may be further delayed due to unidentified technical issues that appear to have grounded the aircraft for three months in late 2013. The Watchkeeper program apparently logged no flight activity between mid-September and mid-January, according to data provided by Thales, the program’s main contractor, which showed that the number of total flight hours and total sorties barely changed between Sept. 16, 2013 and Jan 12, 2014. As of Sept. 16, Watchkeeper had flown “almost 600 sorties, for a total of about 1,000 flight hours,” a Thales spokesperson told in an e-mail follow-up to an interview at the DSEi show in London. On Jan. 20, responding to a follow-up query, the Thales spokesperson said that “Tests are progressing nominally, as planned. We have now passed 600 sorties and are nearing 1,000 flight hours.” These figures show no flight activity between mid-September and mid-January. Asked to explain this apparent discrepancy, the Thales spokesperson had not responded by our deadline, three days later. “The delivery of Watchkeeper equipment is on track and trials are continuing with over 550 hours flying having been completed,” the UK Ministry of Defence in a Jan 31 e-mail statement. Note this is about half the flight hour figure provided by Thales. “…the Release to Service process is taking longer than expected,” the MoD statement continued, adding that “The last flight was last week, so it’s incorrect to say that the assets are still grounded.” This unannounced grounding may be one reason why the French Ministry of Defense is back-pedaling on earlier promises to consider buying the Watchkeeper, after an inconclusive evaluation between April and July 2013 by the French army. The evaluation included “several dozen flight hours” from Istres, the French air force’s flight test center in south-eastern France, a French MoD spokesman said Jan. 31. The evaluation report has not been completed, and no date has been set, he added. The final communiqué of today’s Anglo-French summit meeting, for the first time since November 2010, makes no mention of the Watchkeeper, although it was mentioned in passing by French President François Hollande during the summit press conference. Thales’ figures on Watchkeeper flight activities have also been provided to other news outlets. A Jan. 16 article by FlightGlobal quotes Nick Miller, Thales UK’s business director for ISTAR and UAV systems, as saying that “Watchkeeper aircraft have now completed more than 600 flights, exceeding a combined 950 flight hours.” Aviation Week had posted an article the previous day, Jan. 15, in which it reported that “Thales U.K….is continuing flight trials and supports army training(Emphasis added—Ed.). However, it is difficult to understand how training can take place without an increase in the number of sorties and flight hours. The above article says “Watchkeeper may début in spring,” echoing a similar story published Sept. 12, 2013 in which Aviation Week said Thales UK “is hopeful that …Watchkeeper…will be certified by the end of the year.” This did not happen. This same Aviation Week Sept. 12 story said that the Watchkeeper “fleet has flown more than 1,000 hr. over 600 flights” – a higher figure than FlightGlobal reported on Jan. 16, four months later. The discrepancies in the figures provided to at least three trade publications clearly contradict company statements that Watchkeeper flight operations are “nominal” and “are continuing,” as they show no flight activity has been logged since September. The obvious conclusion is that flight activities have been curtailed, either by a technical grounding or because of administrative blockages. In either case, Watchkeeper – which is already over three years late -- has clearly hit new obstacles that will further delay its operational clearance by the UK Ministry of Defence’s new Military Aviation Authority (MAA). Watchkeeper is being developed by UAV Tactical Systems (U-TacS), a joint venture between Israel’s Elbit Systems (51% share) and Thales UK, the British unit of France’s Thales, under a contract awarded in 2005. UAV Engines Ltd, which builds Watchkeeper’s engine in the UK, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Elbit Systems. Originally valued at £700 million, the cost has escalated to over £850 million, and service introduction has been delayed by at least three years. The British Army is due to receive a total of 54 Watchkeeper unmanned aircraft and 15 ground stations. By late 2013, 26 aircraft and 14 ground stations had been delivered, according to published reports. -ends-

France, UK to Launch Anti-ship Missile, UAV Projects

PARIS --- France and Britain are due to sign several defense-related agreements during their short Jan. 31 summit meeting at Brize Norton, England, including one to launch joint development of a next-generation anti-ship missile and another to fund a two-year feasibility study for a joint combat UAV. British and French officials have widely briefed the media in advance of the summit to obtain the editorial coverage that both countries’ leaders – British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande – need to bolster their domestic standing. The briefings also seek to highlight that, after several fruitless summits in the past three years, the two countries are finally making progress on the joint defense projects to which they subscribed in the 2010 Lancaster House treaty. The two countries are expected to launch the long-delayed development of a lightweight helicopter-launched anti-ship guided missile known as FASGW(H) in the UK and ANL (Anti-Navires Léger) in France. Originally due to be launched in 2011, this program is now expected to be funded under a €500 million (or £500 million – accounts differ) contract to be awarded to MBDA, a joint subsidiary of BAE Systems, Airbus Defense & Space and Italy’s Finmeccanica. The Financial Times reported Jan 29 that the cost would be shared evenly, but that Britain will provide initial funding because it needs the missile earlier. It is not expected that the summit will launch other missile projects also long in the pipeline, such as the joint upgrade of the Scalp/Storm Shadow cruise missile and a joint technology roadmap for short range air defence technologies. UCAV feasibility study The second major decision that could be announced Jan. 31, sources say, is the launch of a two-year feasibility study for a joint Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV), with a contract to be awarded jointly to BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation, which last year completed a 15-month risk reduction study. This project has barely inched forward since 2010, when it was first mooted, but Rolls-Royce and Safran have agreed to cooperate on the aircraft’s engines, and Thales and Selex ES on its electronics, Defense News reported Jan. 28, such is the eagerness to launch a funded program before design know-how evaporates. The two governments must also decide whether, and at what stage, to open this project to other European partners, such as Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi, Sweden’s Saab and the Airbus Group (formerly EADS), which have developed or are studying their own aircraft but lack government funding. Little concrete progress is expected at the summit, however, on other unmanned aircraft projects under discussion. One is France’s possible buy of the Watchkeeper tactical drone, developed for the British Army by Thales UK, and which is running several years late. Although France has said several times that it was interested in buying it and allow “cooperation on technical, support, operational and development of doctrine and concepts,” it seems that its operational evaluation by the French Army’s 61st Artillery Regiment was not conclusively positive. Another project is the long-running saga of a European medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV intended to ultimately replace the US-supplied Predator UAVs currently operated by both countries, as well as Italy, and soon to be bought by Germany and the Netherlands. To date, this project has received little in the way of government funding, and it is this lack of serious money, combined with the lack of clear military requirements, that industry says is curtailing its ability to address Europe’s UAV needs. Minehunters and armored vehicles The two countries are also expected to launch the joint development of an autonomous underwater vehicle to replace the remote-controlled robots used by their navies’ minehunters. Finally, France may announce it will loan about 20 VBCI wheeled combat vehicles to the British Army, which currently lacks a vehicle of this kind, the Paris daily “Les Echos” reported Jan. 27. This is intended to allow the British, who are said to have been impressed by the VBCI’s performance in Afghanistan and Mali, to evaluate it before they begin procurement of similar heavy wheeled armored vehicles in 2017. -ends-