LONDON — Rolls-Royce and Snecma have joined forces to take the first steps toward developing an engine to power a potential unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) program being considered by the British and French governments.
The two engine companies announced July 30 their existing joint venture company, Rolls-Royce Snecma, would “explore concepts and technologies as part of the Anglo-French Future Combat Air Systems demonstration programme preparation phase contract.”
The engine joint venture has had a low profile since it was formed in 2001 to provide program management of technology acquisition and other tasks.
Britain and France agreed last week, during a meeting of their respective defense ministers, to go ahead with preparatory work on a new UCAV. The two sides signed a deal for BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation to jointly conduct a 15-to-18 month effort to identify key technologies for a system intended to be available in the 2030-2040 time frame.
Rolls-Royce declined to say whether the engine study would match the study timescale outlined for the platform work, or how much it would cost.
Nick Durham, the British company’s president of defense customer business, said the collaboration “recognized the need for airframe and power and propulsion system suppliers to work together to deliver an optimized, affordable solution for the next generation of combat aircraft for the U.K. and France.”
The British and French already have UCAV technology demonstrator programs of their own, and both are powered by the aging Adour engine.
The French-led Neuron is scheduled to fly in late September, and the British hope to fly their Taranis machine next year.