STUTTGART, Germany – The Spanish government officially signed off on the Eurodrone program this week, giving the fourth and final government approval needed for Europe’s preeminent unmanned aerial system to progress.
Madrid’s council of ministers gave the UAS program the green light on Tuesday, Airbus Defence and Space CEO Michael Schoellhorn shared on Twitter that day.
Now that Spain, Germany, France, and Italy have all declared budgetary approval for Eurodrone, the program is entering its contractual phase, an Airbus spokesperson told Defense News on Thursday.
The four nations, their industry partners in the program, and the European intergovernmental Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) will now get together to finalize the global contract, the spokesperson said.
France, Germany, and Italy had previously announced their budgetary approval, and this final nod from Spain “paves the way for contract signature on this key collaborative programme, which strengthens Europe’s strategic autonomy & sovereignty,” Schoellhorn wrote.
Airbus’ head of military aircraft Jean-Brice Dumont also weighed in on the decision, writing on Twitter: “Eurodrone will see the development and consolidation of key operational technologies and new digital-based design and manufacturing that will define the aerospace of the future. This is strategic autonomy at the service of our society.”
Airbus will announce the Eurodrone engine provider once this global contract is signed and completed, the spokesperson added. Two vendors are vying for the opportunity to supply at least 120 engines under the initial contract, which includes 60 dual-engine aircraft.
OCCAR is managing the Eurodrone program on behalf of the four European partners. Airbus is representing both Germany and Spain – although the company’s Munich-based headquarters is officially the prime contractor – while France’s Dassault Aviation and Italy’s Leonardo are also involved. Airbus previously revealed that final assembly of the aircraft will occur in Manching, Germany.
Airbus’ chief Eurodrone engineer Daniela Lohwasser said in November that a formal contract signing might take a couple of months to be finalized, once Spain gave the go-ahead.
Stakeholders expect more nations to sign onto the Eurodrone program once the formal contract is signed. The four current partners have ordered 20 systems, each comprising two ground stations and three aircraft. Germany has opted for seven systems, while Italy has committed to five, and Spain and France will each buy four systems.
First flight for the medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drone is currently targeted for 2025, with deliveries slated to begin in 2028.
The initial production contract is expected to cost around 7.1 billion euro (U.S. $7.95 billion). In 2021, the program received a 100 million euro (U.S. $118 million) grant from the European Union.
Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News' European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2020.