The Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) European procurement agency has issued Airbus with a formal invitation to tender as the prime contractor for the European medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) remotely piloted air system (RPAS), the agency announced on 8 November.
The invitation to Airbus comes just ahead of completion of the design-definition phase for the European MALE RPAS that it is being developed on behalf of Germany and Spain alongside Dassault of France and Leonardo of Italy.
Managed by OCCAR, the European MALE RPAS programme is in the final stages of a definition study contract signed on 26 August 2016. The development phase is expected to be launched in 2019, with a prototype first flight expected in early 2023 and delivery of the first system in about 2025.
A full-sized mock-up revealed at the ILA Berlin Airshow earlier this year showed the unmanned aircraft to be slightly larger in size than the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper, with a twin pusher-propeller configuration. The model on display was shown with a single electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor. Though intended primarily as an intelligence, surveillance. and reconnaissance (ISR) vehicle, there will be an option for it to be armed.
To date, Germany has said that it will procure 21 aircraft, France has said it will buy eight through to 2030, while Spain recently said that it will buy eight. Italy has yet to divulge its procurement plan.
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