France extends Neuron flight test campaign
The French defence procurement agency DGA has announced an extension of the flight test programme for the Dassault-led Neuron unmanned combat aircraft demonstrator. One of the objectives of the new phase of testing — which started with a flight from the Istres flight test centre on 17th May — will be to look at the use of unmanned combat air vehicles “in a naval context”.
The DGA says that some of the tests will involve the French Navy’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. Other tests will focus on measurement of the Neuron’s electromagnetic signature at the DGA’s Bruz test centre. The latter tests are scheduled for completion in early 2017.
Launched in 2006 to explore the next generation of combat aircraft, the Neuron programme is managed by the DGA, with Dassault as prime contractor. It involves five other European partners : Italy (with Alenia Aermacchi), Sweden (Saab), Spain (Airbus Defence & Space), Greece (HAI) and Switzerland (Ruag). One of the programme objectives was to demonstrate that European multinational defence programmes — which in the past have often been synonymous with delays and cost overruns — could be managed efficiently.
The initial phase of testing, from December 2012 to September 2015, included 123 flights in France, Italy and Sweden.