The French Government Defence procurement and technology agency DGA (Direction générale de l’armement) and French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation have tested a Dassault nEURON demonstrator along with five Dassault Rafale fighter jets and an AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft, in multiple tactical configurations. The fifth test campaign was conducted at the Istres-Le Tubé Air Base. One of the objectives of the campaign was to study the use of a stealth combat drone in an operational context, also involving reflection on defense tactics in the face of such a vector, French Ministry of Defense said in a statement Thursday.
The outcomes of the test will be used in the ambitious Franco-German Future Combat Air System (FCAS) project that consists of a manned Next-Generation Fighter (NGF) aircraft, accompanied by drones of specialized capabilities, like reconnaissance and strike. Launched in 2006, the project is a European cooperation that brings together, in addition to France with Dassault Aviation, five countries and their industrial partners: Italy (Alenia Aermacchi), Sweden (Saab), Spain (Airbus Defence & Space) , Greece (HAI) and Switzerland (RUAG). The DGA provides the project management of the project and Dassault Aviation as prime contractor.
The test was supported by French aeronautical research and test center, CEAM (Military Air Expertise Center) and the French Air Force’s Airborne Detection and Control Squadron (l’escadron de détection de contrôle aéroporté, EDCA). The first test campaign nEURON, conducted on behalf of the six nations between December 2012 and September 2015 included 123 flights. They were first made in Istres for the opening of its flight envelope, the development of the system and the evaluation of its stealth by the DGA. The nEURON was demonstrated for its performance optronic sensor and its detection algorithms and automatic target recognition, and stealth tests in favor of the Italian Ministry of Defense.
The Dassault nEUROn is an experimental unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) being developed with international cooperation, led by the French company Dassault Aviation. Countries involved in this project include France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. The design goal is to create a stealthy, autonomous UAV that can function in medium- to high-threat combat zones. The industrial goal is to give European firms experience designing and building high-end UAVs and associated technologies, in order to keep them competitive in the global marketplace. The first flight took place on December 1, 2012.