Neuron, Aarok, Patroller, Larinae, Eurodrone: In 2030, France will be at the heart of the military drone market

For nearly three decades, many defense observers, but also military and political observers, have regretted the European passivity in the field of military drones, forcing the armies of the old continent to acquire off-the-shelf solutions across the Atlantic, but also in Israel.

The situation was such that today eight of the main European armies (Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom) implement or will implement the American MALE drones of the MQ-9 Reaper family, while several other countries, including Finland and Poland, are considering doing so.

A first response appeared in the mid-2000s with a Franco-British initiative which gave birth to the Neuron combat drone demonstrators from Dassault and Taranis from British Aerospace, for what would become the FCAS program finally abandoned by London after Brexit in 2017. In 2015, a new initiative bringing together Germany, Spain, France and Italy was born to design a European MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) drone, the Eurodrone RAPS.

Eurodrone in flight e1600272979371 Combat drones | Defense Analysis | Defense Contracts and Calls for Tenders
Much less expensive than expected, the Eurodrone RPAS offers very advanced payload and endurance performance, making it a credible alternative to high-end American MALE and HALE drones in Europe and elsewhere.

However, the short-term offer in Europe in the field of military drones remains very limited today, apart from tactical models such as Safran's Patroller. But things will, it seems, change rapidly in the years to come. And in this area, it is obviously France that is taking the lead in positioning itself as a global and central player in the European supply of combat drones.

For several weeks, in fact, announcements in this field, whether in the context of the vote on the Military Programming Law 2024-2030, but also around the Paris Air Show which is being held from June 19 to 25, are multiplied.

Patroller Drone Combat Drones | Defense Analysis | Defense Contracts and Calls for Tenders
Greece has committed to acquiring 4 Patroller tactical drones and 3 control stations which will be delivered by 2025, to replace the Sperwer drones from Sagem used until then

Thus, the Ministry of the Armed Forces has integrated several amendments concerning the program into the Military Programming Law. Rafale F5 to bring this to 2030, but above all to support it with the design ofa Loyal Wingman type combat drone inspired by the Neuron demonstrator. It is, in fact, the first announcement of this type in Europe, even if Great Britain had for a time presented a program going in the same direction, before backtracking.

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