BRUSSELS – Seven EU countries have formed what France calls a “club” to produce military drones from 2020 onward.
The scheme was agreed in Brussels on Tuesday (19 November) at a meeting of the European Defence Agency (EDA), the EU’s defence think tank, by France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain.
The group-of-seven’s defence ministers signed a “letter of intent” tasking the EDA to draw up a study on joint production of Medium Altitude Long Endurance (Male) craft, which can be used to strike military targets or for surveillance of migrant boats in the Mediterranean Sea.
The EDA said in a press release that “the objective of this community is to exchange information as well as to identify and facilitate co-operation among member states which currently operate or plan to operate RPAS [Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems].”
The think tank’s director, Claude-France Arnould, noted: “In view of today’s constrained financial situation, this effort for defence must be fully efficient which implies co-operation and searching for synergies.”
Another EDA official, Peter Round, told media: “This is the starting pistol for us to be able to start work on a European RPAS.”
The French defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said: “If Europe hopes to maintain a strategic capability, countries must pool their capacities and actions in a pragmatic way.”
He called the group of seven a “club of drone-using countries.”
It also comes amid a raft of existing European drone projects.
Three European arms firms – France’s Dassualt, Franco-German firm Eads and Italy’s Finmeccanica – agreed in June to launch their own European drone programme.
France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland are working on what they call a “euro-Ucav,” or unmanned combat air vehicle, the Neuron, which made a test flight in December 2012.
France and the UK are working on a “stealth” drone called Telemos to fly in 2018.