PARIS, June 16 Three European aerospace
companies called on Europe to launch its own independent drone
programme to equip armies across the continent at a time when
budget cuts weigh on national defence spending and air forces
rely on foreign-made equipment.
France's Dassault Aviation, EADS Cassidian
and Italy's Finmeccanica Alenia Aermacchi
said in a statement on Sunday they were ready to work together
on the so-called medium-altitude long endurance (MALE) drone
"European sovereignty and independence in the management of
information and intelligence would be guaranteed while at the
same time delivering a robust system resilient against cyber
attacks," the three companies said in the statement distributed
French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said earlier this
year that he wanted to buy U.S.-made Reaper drones, criticising
the lack of a European alternative, after the country's
interventions in Libya and Mali showed France had to rely on
drones operated by the United States for intelligence.
Competing programmes in Europe between EADS, Dassault and
Britain's BAE Systems, among others, have allowed the
United States and Israel to dominate the growing drone market.
Northrop Grumman signed a $1.7 billion contract with
NATO in May last year for a new surveillance and intelligence
system that will include five drones and transportable ground
Fourteen NATO members, including Germany, agreed to pay for
the new system, due to be ready between 2015 and 2017, which
NATO will then operate and maintain on behalf of all 28 allies,
according to NATO's web site.