11 July 2009
Germany, Italy and Sweden hold project talks on 'Agile' advanced UAV in bid to beat French-led Neuron
Peter La Franchi in London
Flight International

Germany is discussing with Italy and Sweden the possible launch of a multinational advanced unmanned air vehicle effort that could demonstrate many capabilities years ahead of the French-led Neuron, which is not expected to enter flight testing until 2011.

The German ministry of defence is planning to stage a four-year “Agile UAV in a network-centric environment” project focused on multi-role, high-speed UAVs, using the recently unveiled EADS Barracuda demonstrator.

The invitation to Italy is aimed at involving the Alenia Aeronautica Sky-X demonstrator, while Sweden would participate with the Saab Filur low-observable UAV. The demonstrations may also involve the use of manned aircraft as UAV surrogates. Agile is to be managed by Germany’s BWB defence procurement agency, while the European Defence Agency could play a co-ordinating role.

The formation of national teams for the Agile effort is to be finalised by mid-August, allowing for combined defence agency/industry input into final project planning by the end of this year.

The BWB is proposing a three-phase programme. Phase 0 would start in early 2007 and focus on mission development, simulations and hardware-in-the-loop testing of air vehicles. Phase 1 would see reconnaissance missions demonstrated within Europe by the end of 2008. This would nominally involve a maritime scenario with a 100 x 100km (55 x 55nm) area of operations at a distance of 500km from the UAV’s home base. Phase 2 would see the demonstration of reconnaissance and attack missions by mid-2010.

The project would aim to demonstrate new-generation UAV capabilities ahead of the six-nation, French-led Neuron unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV). Dassault earlier this year signed a deal to co-ordinate the Neuron technology demonstrator programme under a €405 million ($507 million) contract from France’s DGA procurement agency. The partners are Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

The Agile project would be used to support risk reduction for any future common European advanced UAV and possible UCAV development and acquisition effort by identifying capability gaps and developing generic system architectures. EADS says it is supporting the demonstration and is committed to making the Barracuda available.

Meanwhile, Alenia has completed a third flight-test campaign for the Sky-X and plans a fourth campaign to start by mid-August. In the third campaign in May at Sweden’s Vidsel test range the UAV flew at 230kt (425km/h) and an altitude of 10,000ft (3,000m).

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