Britain, France launch feasibility study for joint military drones

SAINT-CLOUD, France (AFP) - Britain and France on Wednesday tasked two major defence contractors with a two-year feasibility study over a joint military drone project, with the aim of getting it off the ground by 2030.

The British and French government tasked BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation with the study following a political agreement reached at the Farnborough air show earlier this year.

"This is the first step towards what could become a full demonstration programme that shapes the future of combat aerospace in Europe," the two firms said in a joint statement.

The contract to carry out the joint study is worth €150 million (S$240 million) and will be supplemented by joint Franco-British government funding worth €100 million over the same period.

"Cooperation between France and the UK is seen as the optimum way to progress a UCAS (Unmanned Combat Air System) solution, while supporting both governments' intentions for closer defence ties," said the two firms.

The ultimate aim is to have combat drones capable of carrying out surveillance and observation missions, identifying targets and launching strikes in enemy territory, according to the British defence ministry.

Such a drone would be tasked with entering hostile territory ahead of standard manned warplanes.

In addition to the two main groups, Rolls-Royce and Safran will work on propulsion systems while Selex ES and Thales will be in charge of electronics and sensors.

The study will focus on "the developments of concepts for an operational system" and "the key technologies required," the statement added.

The deal is "testament to the importance that the French and UK governments place in maintaining a cutting edge, sovereign military air capability."

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