Airbus will sign a contract in the Eurodrone program by 2021.
Speaking at Airbus’s annual commercial media briefing, Jana Rosenmann, Director of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), stated that the company concluded an agreement with the Organization for Joint Armaments Cooperation (OCCAR) on November 19 to develop a next-generation medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV. OCCAR manages the Eurodrone program on behalf of four European partners: Germany, France, Spain and Italy.
The industrial team of the program, consisting of Dassault Aviation and Leonardo, together with lead contractor Airbus Germany, submitted a proposal for the program in June. Since then, companies have been involved in “very interesting and very lively discussions” with OCCAR, Rosenmann said. “I believe that what we have now, today on the table, is a fair and reasonable offer for both sides, both for the customer, as well as for industry,” he said. While the official contract is expected to be signed in 2021, the industry teams will prepare for the acceleration of the Eurodrone program, expected to create 7,000 new technical positions across the continent.
Rosenman also announced that the final meeting of the Eurodrone would be held at Airbus’ headquarters in Manching, Germany. “We will only have a single final assembly line,” she said. “This is for efficiency purposes, and clearly also for cost reasons for our customers.”
The director stated that some elements could be produced elsewhere and then transferred to Manching for assembly and ground testing, and the delivery center would also be located in Manching. Rosenmann added that the fuselage will be assembled in Spain before it is transferred to Germany.
Competition for the production of engines continues
In the meantime, there are some doubts over the supply the Eurodrone’s need for a total of 120 engine. “As we are in a competitive process at the moment, we’re not at liberty to reveal any further details,” Rosenmann said.
Rosenmann stated that the COVID-19 outbreak caused significant disruptions to industries around the world, and Airbus was also affected. Despite this, the director said that the Unmanned Aerial Systems division began to gain momentum at the end of the 2020 calendar year and is willing to continue the momentum in its portfolio of programs, including Eurodrone.
While the company is poised for the formal signature of the contract, Eurodrone is expected to make its first flight in 2025 and deliveries are expected to begin in 2028. The current contract includes 20 Eurodrone systems, each consisting of three vehicles, for a total of 60 air platforms with double-engines. Currently, Germany, the leading country in the program, has been contracted for seven systems, while Italy has committed to acquiring five systems. Spain and France aim to supply four Eurodrone systems each.