Italy’s Leonardo is set to build parts of a new European military drone, the director general of the aerospace group said after Spain gave its support to the new joint program. “Spain’s approval of the Eurodrone paves the way for the signing of the contract on a key collaboration programme that strengthens Europe’s strategic autonomy and sovereignty,” Leonardo Director General Lucio Valerio Cioffi said.
The project to design, develop and produce the drone is backed by Germany, France, Italy and Spain, and the approval by Spain was the last green light required. The unmanned aerial system, key for future European combat air systems, will also be built by Airbus and Dassault. Leonardo could make components for the drone at some of its plants in southern Italy, which have been suffering from a drastic fall in orders from Boeing, the group said.
Cioffi said that the new program “is a unique opportunity to promote the growth of technological capabilities, skills and qualified jobs, which is key to consolidate the process of European cooperation in the defence field”.
With an expected length of some 16 metres and a wingspan of just under 30 metres, the drone will be able to stay in flight for more than 24 hours at heights of around 13,000 metres to monitor the situation on the ground with sensors such as radars and infrared cameras. Airbus said the next-generation platform would give Europe “unparalleled competencies” in unmanned systems and offer advanced strategic performance capabilities to help guarantee European sovereignty.
Although the Eurodrone has received criticism because of the difficulties of facilitating a multinational project, the platform is expected to enhance European security and defense. It is meant to become an essential asset for future combat air systems. “Eurodrone is designed to become one of the main pillars of any future combat air system, prepared for real integration into civil airspace based on minimal restrictions and easy transportability due to its modular design,” Airbus said on on its website.