For several months, the Medium Altitude Long Endurance, or MALE, European drone program bringing together France, Germany, Italy and Spain, had been on hold, awaiting the budgetary green light from Madrid, and the final choice of its propulsion solution. Although Spain confirmed its financial participation a few weeks ago, the choice announced by Airbus DS of the Catalyst engine, manufactured in Italy by Avio Aero but designed in the United States by General Electric, to the detriment of the Ardiden 3TP engine from French Safran, created a deep movement of discontent within the French defense industry.
The Catalyst turboprop, with a power of 850 to 1.600 hp and a mass of less than 300 kg, plays in the category of the famous PT-6 from the American Pratt&Whitney, which has established itself in this segment for around thirty years. years, while offering advanced performance and capabilities tied to its modern design. For Airbus DS, the fact that the Catalyst is in the process of being certified by the end of the year, and that it has already been chosen to equip the single-engine Beechcraft Denali, was a key argument in in terms of risk management, while Safran's Ardiden 3TP, despite its entirely European ancestry, cannot boast of such a state of progress. In addition, according to the Italian Avio Aero, the Catalyst would be 100% ITAR Free, which means that all of its components are not subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR, which potentially allows the United States States to oppose, for example, an export contract. Despite the arguments put forward by Airbus DS and Avio Aero, this choice is highly questionable, and this goes well beyond the national preference that one might assume for a news site of French origin.
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