EuroMale drone program faces coordination hurdles during development

Dassault Aviation – V. Almansa

Developmental challenges in the Eurodrone program have been outlined in a recent update from the German Defense Ministry. 

Launched in 2015, the project is a collaborative effort between France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, aimed at developing a high-endurance, medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drone. 

But in 2023, the project faced delays that might impact the overall timeline, according to the latest report from the German Defense Ministry on its current weapons programs. In particular, the construction of the first EuroMale prototype, originally scheduled to begin after a Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and a Critical Design Review (CDR) in 2024, may experience setbacks.  

The PDR, initially set for September 2023, is still being discussed due to ongoing coordination issues between the German main contractor, Airbus, and the French subcontractor, Dassault Aviation. These coordination challenges may also influence the scheduled CDR in September 2024, a critical milestone in the project. 

The first flight of the European MALE prototype is still scheduled for January 2027, with the delivery of the first aircraft and a ground control station for Germany [and France – ed. note] planned for 2030. 

It has also been revealed that the project is expected to incur a significant cost increase of 35.2%. Officials stress that these cost adjustments should be viewed in the context of the overall economic inflation, particularly influenced by the Ukraine conflict.  

It is not the first setback affecting the development of the Eurodrone: originally slated for signing in 2019, the European Remotely Piloted Aircraft System contract faced disputes over the drone’s pricing. The crux of the matter revolved around concerns that a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drone, such as the Eurodrone, might struggle to gain traction in today’s market if priced higher than its competitors, particularly the acclaimed General Atomics Reaper drone manufactured in the United States. 

Obtaining approval successively from France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, the official contract was ultimately inked in February 2022 between the Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) and Airbus Defence and Space, the prime contractor for the Eurodrone project. 

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