MILAN — The European Commission is poised to jolt the Eurodrone program by injecting a second round of funding into the project to allow for the development of new capabilities.

On March 15, the European Commission, responsible for promoting cooperation and facilitating the integration of defense capabilities between EU member-states, published its 2024 call for proposals.

Among the 30 different project requests outlined in the document, one stands out as having the largest budget up for grabs: the development of a fully European medium-altitude, long-endurance, remotely piloted aircraft system.

The request, for which 100 million euros ($108 million) is allocated, pertains specifically to the ongoing Eurodrone program, according to a Commission representative.

“The Commission is not planning to support the development of another European MALE drone – the call for proposals in the EDF annual Work Programme 2024 aims at developing additional capabilities for the actual Eurodrone, expected to fly before the end of this decade,” a Commission spokesperson told Defense News.

According to the document, the primary objective behind having a European-made MALE RPAS is to move away from foreign suppliers when it comes to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

“Today, most of the ISR capabilities of member states rely on non-EU manufacturers in order to carry out their missions … the development of a fully European MALE RPAS is key to reduce dependency on non-EU solutions,” the document said.

The Eurodrone program, which began in 2015, received $107 million in funding from the EU-run European Defense Industrial Development Program in 2021.

The effort involves four governments – Italy, Spain, Germany and France – as well as three contractors, Leonardo, Dassault Aviation, and Airbus Defence and Space.

According to a recent report released by the German Ministry of Defense, the Eurodrone program experienced some setbacks in 2023 that may delay key deliverables

A preliminary design review, one such milestone, was initially slated to be carried out last September, but is still being reviewed due to coordination issues between Airbus and Dassault, the document said. The delay may affect the subsequent critical design review of the platform that was planned for September 2024, a necessary step before companies can start building the first drone.

It remains to be seen if the first flight of the European MALE drone will take place as scheduled in January 2027.

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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