France will be integrating the MHT/MLP air-to-air missile on the Eurodrone medium altitude long endurance remotely piloted aircraft system (MALE RPAS), the country’s armaments agency DGA has announced.
The DGA announcement closely followed a statement from OCCAR, which said the Eurodrone program had successfully passed the integrated baseline review (IBR). The milestone puts the international program on track to complete the critical design review in 2024, OCCAR said.
While the Eurodrone is a result of cooperation between Germany, France, Italy and Spain, it will feature an open architecture design to allow for growth and rescoping system capabilities as may be required by the future needs of customer armed forces.
This open architecture will allow France, and other countries as well, to integrate desired weapons and payloads on the RPAS.
DGA said that in addition to the GBU-49 Paveway laser- and GPS-guided bombs, the Eurodrone would carry the Missile Haut de Trame / Missile Longue Portée (MHT/MLP) missile that is already being developed by MBDA for the French Army’s Tiger attack helicopters.
MHT/MLP has a range of over 8 km, with a multi-effect warhead that can handle a variety of targets, from modern battle tanks to hardened combat infrastructure. The missile features beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) capability, with a two-way data link that sends images from the missile’s high-resolution visible and infrared optronic seeker back to the operator. This allows the option of choosing the missile’s point of impact or even selecting a new target in flight.
Eurodrone MALE RPAS
Official work on the Eurodrone began in February this year, with the signing of a contract between Airbus and OCCAR.
Airbus Defence and Space GmbH is the prime contractor and will work with Airbus Defence and Space S.A.U in Spain, Dassault Aviation in France and Leonardo S.p.A. in Italy to develop the drone for the four launch nations.
According to available information, the Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) will have a wingspan of 30 meters and a length of 16.4 meters. It will have a maximum takeoff weight of around eleven tons and will fly at altitudes of around 13,500 meters. In addition to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, the drone will also be equipped with signals intelligence systems.
According to OCCAR, it is the first MALE designed from the start to meet requirements for integration into civil airspace, helping to improve efficiencies such as use of direct flight paths, without the need for pre-planned emergency landing sites, which saves time, fuel and, as a result, CO2 emissions.