Airbus Unveils 6th-Gen Eurodrone Mock-Up At ILA Berlin As Europe Looks To Cut Dependence On US

Leading European aerospace company Airbus presented a 1:1 mock-up of the Eurodrone, a collaborative effort by Italy, Spain, Germany, and France, at the International Aerospace Exhibition (ILA) in Berlin. 

The Eurodrone exhibit garnered widespread attention as Airbus shared photos of the prototype on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) with the caption, “At #ILA24, we’re showcasing a 1:1 mock-up of our #Eurodrone. It will ensure operational superiority to the partner nations, especially in the context of Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions.”

The statement highlights the Eurodrone’s crucial role in enhancing the capabilities of participating nations, particularly in intelligence-gathering operations.

The Eurodrone project is also positioned as a key pillar within the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) and is expected to serve multiple roles, including that of a communication node. This multifaceted approach underscores the drone’s adaptability and versatility to meet the evolving needs of modern warfare.

At the ILA 2024, the Eurodrone is prominently displayed alongside various maritime weapons and payloads, demonstrating its potential in naval operations.

Among the showcased armaments are a sonobuoy launcher, an air-dropped torpedo, and the MBDA Group Marte-ER anti-ship missile. These additions reflect the collaborative efforts of the partner nations in exploring additional roles for the twin-engine Unmanned Aerial System (UAS).

The ILA in Berlin has become a critical venue for Airbus to showcase its current and future technologies. Along with the Eurodrone, Airbus has unveiled a 1:1 model of its innovative Wingman concept, resembling a fighter aircraft with stealth capabilities, at ILA in Berlin.

According to the company, the Wingman concept is a technology project that enhances manned aircraft capabilities through unmanned platforms. It also highlights anticipated features such as low observability and weapon systems.

At the inauguration of the ILA Berlin Air Show 2024, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany intended to purchase an additional 20 Eurofighter Typhoon fighters by the end of 2025.

Scholz stated, “We will acquire 20 more Eurofighters before the end of this legislative session (scheduled for autumn 2025) in addition to the 38 aircraft currently in the pipeline.”

He emphasized that this order would provide certainty to Airbus and its suppliers. This procurement represents a significant victory for Airbus, which has been vocal about the necessity for new orders to prevent a production gap.

Via: Airbus Defence

Eurodrone Program

The Eurodrone program, a collaborative initiative led by Germany (Airbus DS), involves key contributions from France (Dassault), Italy (Leonardo), and Spain (Airbus DS).

The project began in 2022 after Airbus D&S secured a contract from the procurement agency OCCAR (Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation was initially established by an Administrative Arrangement signed by the Defense Ministers of France, Germany, Italy, and the UK in November 1996).

The program aims to develop a European medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) remotely piloted air system (RPAS). It would end Europe’s dependence on US and Israeli platforms for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

The Eurodrone, with an expected mass of 10 tonnes, will feature a payload capacity of 2,300 kilograms, a wingspan of 26 meters, a length of 16 meters, and a height of six meters. It will be powered by two Catalyst turboprop engines from Avio Aero, an Italian subsidiary of General Electric (GE).

The first flight is scheduled for January 2027, and deliveries are anticipated in 2030. Partner nations—France, Germany, Italy, and Spain—have collectively ordered 20 systems, each comprising three air vehicles.

Eurodrone – Leonardo

The program’s final assembly line is located in Germany, where we, as the primary customer with seven systems, oversee operations. Dassault’s responsibilities include developing safe flight and landing systems and maintaining communication elements.

According to Airbus, “Eurodrone is the first unmanned aerial system designed for flight in non-segregated airspace. It will provide Europe with unparalleled competencies in UAS, offering advanced strategic performance capabilities. Its features include mission modularity for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions, ensuring European sovereignty.”

However, the program has faced several challenges in its development journey. In 2023, coordination issues between the German main contractor, Airbus, and the French subcontractor, Dassault, caused delays that impacted the overall timeline.

The Preliminary Design Review (PDR), initially scheduled for completion by September 2023, faced postponement due to a dispute between the German and French companies. However, overcoming these challenges, the program successfully concluded its Preliminary Design Review (PDR) in May 2024.

Yet, it remains uncertain whether these challenges will affect the Critical Design Review (CDR), expected by September 2024.