ROME – A competition to supply Europe’s new flagship drone with an engine has been won by a GE-owned company despite criticism it is not a sufficiently European solution for the aircraft.
Prime contractor Airbus announced on Friday it had selected the Catalyst, an engine developed by GE-owned Avio Aero, to power the Eurodrone, which is due to be procured by Italy, France, Germany and Spain.
Designed in Europe by Italy-based Avio Aero, the Catalyst was “the best solution based on superior performance, lower developmental risk, better in-service economics as well as growth potential,” said Jean-Brice Dumont, Head of Military Aircraft at Airbus Defence and Space.
Avio Aero beat off competition from France’s Safran Helicopter Engines, which offered its Ardiden 3TP for the the twin-engined, 98-foot wingspan drone.
It also overcame complaints in Europe that it was not suitable to hand the deal to a US-owned company.
Dumont appeared to address those objections in his statement, claiming, “Catalyst will offer a truly European solution and will thus contribute to the overall role of Eurodrone as an enabler of strategic autonomy.”
He added, “The Catalyst is an engine proven in flight, entirely developed and manufactured in Europe. As well as the Eurodrone programme, this engine has been conceived as 100% ITAR-free (International Traffic in Arms Regulation), thus enabling independence on export chances and avoiding additional requirements prior export clearance.”
The Avio Aero engine is a variant on its Catalyst engine now being developed for the Beechcraft Denali aircraft, while Safran’s solution was derived from a helicopter engine.
The engine choice was the last hurdle for the Eurodrone after a joint development and production contract was signed off in February, with a prototype due to fly by 2027.
Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.