A twin prop engine configuration has been selected for the European MALE RPAS (Medium Altitude Long Endurance Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) as the basis for further trade-off studies until the upcoming Systems Requirements Review (SRR).
Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault Aviation and Leonardo have provided a substantial set of data that allowed the participating nations including France, Germany, Italy and Spain to agree on the basic remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) configuration and several main design drivers for the system, after an intensive 10 months trade-off period.
The twin engine configuration will further add redundancy to the aircraft, as the current widely flown US made General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper RPAS has crashed several times due to engine problems, Aviationanalysiswing reported Monday.
The European MALE RPAS will be a new generation remotely piloted air system for armed Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions. Air traffic integration and certification for European densely populated environment are part of the key distinctive objectives of the program.
A two-year definition study was launched from September 2016, jointly executed by Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault Aviation and Leonardo-Finmeccanica Aircraft Division with equal work allocation.
Following the study, the start of the development phase is planned for 2018, with a prototype first flight in early 2023 and a first delivery of the system in the 2025 timeframe.
Currently France and Italy operates the MQ-9 Reaper while Spain has awarded a contract for the type in January 2017.
Germany has been operating Surveillance version of Israeli IAI Heron drones in Afghanistan under a contract with Airbus. A deal to operate armed version of Heron on lease has been delayed following blocking by German Parliament.