The Czech Republic has joined the multinational team developing the European medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) remotely piloted air system (RPAS), the European Council disclosed on 19 November.
The country’s addition to the European MALE RPAS (formerly EuroDrone and EuroMALE) team that is being headed by Germany in partnership with France, Italy, and Spain was noted in the council’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) updated list of PESCO projects.
While the list does not disclose the nature of the Czech Republic’s industrial participation, it will probably involve Aero Vodochody as the country’s prime defence contractor. The other international participants comprise Airbus, Dassault, and Leonardo.
News of the Czech Republic’s involvement comes just days after the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) European procurement agency issued Airbus with a formal invitation to tender as the prime contractor for the project. This invitation came just ahead of completion of the design phase 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. Although intended primarily as an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) vehicle, there will be an option for it to be armed.
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