LONDON — The three companies that caused a stir ahead of the Paris Air Show this summer by publishing a letter calling for a joint effort to develop a European UAV program have been asked to provide further details of their proposals by the German and French governments.
Christian Scherer, the chief sales officer of EADS Cassidian, said the two governments had invited the companies to “come back and be more specific [about the idea] before the end of the year.”
“There is progress. It’s not in the public eye but we are working on being more specific than what we said around Paris Air Show time. There is a lot of paddling under the surface to put meat on the bone right now,” he said.
“The governments have said ‘tell us to more’ and that’s what we are going to do over the few months. Italy has tacitly said the same thing,” Scherer said.
Cassidian, Dassault Aviation and Alenia Aermacchi published an open letter to French, German and Italian governments 24 hours before the Paris Air Show opened, calling on them to pool resources to develop a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV to protect skills, jobs and European sovereignty.
The letter was prompted by the prospect of Europe missing out on a key aviation capability as the governments moved instead to order the General Atomic Reaper MALE.
The Europeans have dithered for years over MALE developments, leaving the field open to US and Israeli products for European governments, particularly those embroiled in the war in Afghanistan, hungry for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance.
An Anglo-French effort involving BAE Systems and Dassault on the back of a 2010 defense accord appears to be going nowhere as the two companies focus more on unmanned combat air systems.
Briefing reporters on the sidelines of the DSEi show in London this week, Scherer also said that efforts were underway to boost the prospects of another pan-European effort — the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Cassidian’s chief sales officer said changes to the governance of the Typhoon program are “a priority” if the partners are to succeed in their “intent to score a couple of export orders.”
The United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Qatar and South Korea are among the export opportunities open to Typhoon.
Eurofighter is a joint venture involving EADS, BAE Systems and Finmeccanica.
The fast jet is operated by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain along with export customers Austria and Saudi Arabia. Oman has also ordered the aircraft.
Scherer said there are ongoing discussions among the partners on how to resolve the problem.
He declined to give a timetable for any changes but said the move was independent of the restructuring now underway at EADS.
One industry source said it was likely the Eurofighter structure would be simplified in some way with the change expected by the end of the year.
Scherer said the present “convoluted set up was appropriate for Eurofighter home countries to arbitrate how they benefited from the business and how they got there airplanes, but it’s not quick enough for a commercial battle in the export markets.”