The European Medium Altitude Long Endurance Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (MALE RPAS) programme has achieved the final milestone of the two-year programme definition study launched in September 2016. The programme successfully passed the system preliminary design review on 22 November, according to a statement issued on 13 December by Airbus Defence & Space, Dassault Aviation and Leonardo.

This highly significant accomplishment follows the European Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation (OCCAR) inviting Airbus Defence and Space on 31 October to submit a tender for the development, production and initial in-service support phase of the programme. This milestone will allow the participating states (France, Germany, Italy and Spain) and industry to start developing the system with aligned requirements and a clear picture of the overall system design.

As designated future prime contractor, Airbus Defence and Space will coordinate the industrial response to the invitation to tender, with the involvement of major subcontractors Dassault Aviation SA and Leonardo.

The twin events bear witness to the desire of the participating states to pursue the programme, which will result in an aircraft designed for flight in non-segregated airspace, to include mission modularity for operational superiority in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) role, both wide-area and in-theatre.  The participating states agreed on the air vehicle configuration in mid-2017, selecting a twin turboprop propulsion system.

The European MALE RPAS will be operating in the ISR role by the middle of the next decade, according to the contracting companies. (Photo: Airbus)

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