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Eurodrone offers boost to European defence industry

15th June 2024 - 10:28 GMT | by Matty Todhunter in Paris

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German's Eurodrones will be fitted with a SIGNIT capability provided by Hensoldt. (Photo:

Joint European project to create MALE UAV has led to major job generation and offered a significant supply chain boost to the continent’s defence industry.

The European Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), better known as the Eurodrone, is a MALE UAV developed by Airbus, Dassault Aviation and Leonardo for Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

The platform’s open architecture design is intended to conduct ISTAR missions using its SAR, EO/IR and tactical SIGINT payloads.

Following the launch of the MALE RPAS development programme in September 2016, the four nations of Italy, Germany, Spain and France, alongside the companies involved in the programme, agreed on the requirements of the developmental platform and will procure a total of 60 Eurodrone platforms. Germany is scheduled to purchase 21 platforms, Italy 15, Spain 12 and France 12, with the programme’s total cost reported at €7.1 billion (US$7.6 billion).

Electro-optic payload selected for Eurodrone UAS programme

Hensoldt develops demonstrator SIGINT pod for Eurodrone

Eurodrone gets Liebherr landing gear

The first full-scale model of the Eurodrone was unveiled on 26 April 2018 during a ceremony held in Berlin.

Labour opportunities abound as European defence industry boosted

The Eurodrone project will create more than 7,000 high-tech jobs throughout Europe and will have a 100% European industry value chain. Germany, the leading country in the project with Airbus Germany is the industry prime. The company will contribute to the flight management and airspace integration system, GCS and the final assembly line.

France’s Dassault Aviation will develop safe flight and landing systems, mission communication, air central maintenance systems, and ground and mobile central maintenance systems. Airbus Spain will develop the fuselage, empennage design and production, ground safety-critical control system, safety and tactical communication and propulsion system. Italy’s Leonardo will provide wing design and production, airborne electrical and environmental control systems, and airborne mission and armament systems.

In April 2023, Airbus chose Liebherr-Aerospace Lindenberg GmbH to develop and manufacture the main and nose landing gear for the drone, including actuation, steering and electronic controls, and the electric motor-driven pump (EMP).

With an open architecture, the Eurodrone is specifically designed to allow its operators to conduct various missions using the platform. In addition, the four partner nations agreed the UAV would have an ample supply of onboard energy for the payloads and, more importantly, for a redundancy system to limit the restrictions that would be imposed on it while it operated over densely populated European cities. Each Eurodrone system contains three UAV units.

It is the first MALE designed from the start to meet requirements for integration into civil airspace, helping to improve efficiencies such as the use of direct flight paths without the need for pre-planned emergency landing sites, which saves time, fuel and, as a result, CO2 emissions.

The European UAV with an American-backed engine

In March 2022, the competition to supply the UAV with its engine was won by GE-owned Avio Aero. The company will provide its Catalyst engine for the platform, with Jean-Brice Dumont, head of military aircraft at Airbus Defence and Space, stating that the engine was the “best solution based on superior performance, lower developmental risk, better in-service economics” and “growth potential”.

On 29 November 2022, Safran Electronics & Defense confirmed it had signed a contract with Leonardo to supply the Euroflir 610 EO sensor, a payload derived from the Euroflir 410 architecture, for the Eurodrone system. 

Two months later, in January 2023, German announced that its Eurodrones would be fitted with a SIGNIT capability provided by Hensoldt.

The development roadmap of the Eurodrone made provisions for it to be weaponised sometime in the future despite the previous German collation government explicitly ruled out arming the MALE RPAS in February 2021.

In October 2022, the Direction générale de l’armement (DGA) confirmed that, following a study launched by OPEX and itself, the Heut de Trame (MHT) air-to-ground missiles would equip its Eurodrones in addition to the Tigre Mk3 and GPU-49 bombs. The DGA chose the MHT due to its multi-purpose warhead, reduced mass, range of more than 15km and efficient guidance system.

More information on the programme’s forecast methodology, including programme value, unit cost and timelines, can be found here.

Eurodrone [Spain]

Eurodrone [Italy]

Eurodrone [Germany]

Eurodrone

Matty Todhunter

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Matty Todhunter


Matty Todhunter is the Senior UAS Analyst for Shephard Media's Defence Insight. Before joining Shephard, Matty graduated …

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