An early concept of a potential Anglo-French combat UAV. (David Brown / Staff)
LONDON — Hopes have been dashed that Britain and France could announce progress on an alliance to develop UAVs at this week’s Farnborough International Airshow.
Britain’s defense procurement minister, Peter Luff, said the announcement of a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV risk-reduction contract and an unmanned air combat vehicle demonstration deal is being delayed as the new French government looks at future commitments.
“France is pausing for breath to look at what it can afford. I suspect their white paper process will be as painful for the French Ministry of Defense as [defense cuts] have been for the U.K. and U.S.,” he said.
“They are looking at their UAV strategy but have assured us they are still committed to work together on these programs. We entirely respect the new administration’s decision.”
France is expected to take the wraps off a new UAV strategy later this week.
The study contracts were to have been awarded to BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation. The companies are the industrial partners leading the UAV work.
Expectations the two study contracts could be announced at the show were raised by briefings held seperately by the companies in the run up to Farnborough.
The companies cancelled a joint news conference scheduled for July 10 to give details of progress in their partnership.
A spokeswomen for BAE said she still expected the study deal to go through in the “next few weeks.”
Britain and France signed a bilateral defense treaty in late 2010 aimed at advancing cooperation in operational and industrial sectors.
France recently signed a more limited deal with Germany covering industrial cooperation. One of the areas of possible cooperation is MALE UAV development.
The letter of intent with Berlin opened up the possibility of widening the bilateral deal with Britain to include Germany.
France is also keen on involving Italy in cooperative defense programs.
The British are wary of increasing the scope of the UAV program until they have the essentials in place with France.
Staff writer Pierre Tran contributed to this report.