BAE and Dassault confirm OUAS interest
The UK and France are expected to confirm in the next few months whether they intend to pursue a joint requirement for a MALE Operational Unmanned Aerial System (OUAS), industry sources have revealed.
Speaking at a pre-Paris Air Show briefing, officials from BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation said they had heard the MoD was 'not far away' from issuing a joint requirement. BAE Systems project director for strategic UAS, Ian Fairclough said: 'They are currently discussing the acquisition approach for the system and it is likely that a decision will be made mid-summer'.
The news follows a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two companies in February aimed at 'exclusive cooperation in preparation of proposals for design, development, production and support of a UK/French MALE OUAS'.
Previously, the UK and France had been drawing up their own plans for a similar capability. The UK's Scavenger and Solomon requirements consider data collection and dissemination respectively and Fairclough said the MALE OUAS programme would satisfy a 'large portion' of both.
Referring to the potential joint effort, Fairclough stated: 'We believe we are ready to begin the programme now. We have got some fairly mature plans in place for BAE Systems and Dassault to go ahead with this and we have also mobilised a joint team to work on this.'
He added that the French procurement agency had already deployed staff to the UK Ministry of Defence's (MoD's) facility at Abbey Wood to consider further teaming agreements as part of a joint programme office. However, he said programme specifics including the number of air vehicles, concept of operations and manufacturing locations would be dependent on details published in the request for proposals. The MoD is understood to have earmarked around £2bn for the potential programme.
Dassault Aviation charge de mission, Yves Robins said he was unable to confirm whether the Mantis air vehicle would be used as a base for the joint bid. However, he conceded that it had been used as the platform of choice for the feasibility study conducted by the two companies last year following the signature of the UK/France Defence Accord.
The potential programme, which is expected to provide an initial operating capability between 2015 and 2020, calls for 'affordable and actionable' 24/7 combat ISTAR including deep strike missions.
'It must keep pace with changing operational needs and technology evolution and provide an extensive capability to carry a broad range of sensors and weaponry giving an ability for mission flexibility during deployment,' Fairclough added.
Other companies which might be interested in bidding could include General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Northrop Grumman. Both have expressed an interest in participating in the UK's Scavenger requirement with Predator C and Global Hawk air frames respectively.
Referring to possible future implications for BAE Systems' Taranis and Dassault's Neuron UCAS programmes, Fairclough said: 'If we get this programme off the ground, there will be options and opportunities on how you could use [the technology] on UCAS programmes in future.
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