Europe’s nEUROn unmanned combat air vehicle demonstrator reached a new milestone on 4th June when it was presented in flight at an air meet at Istres organized by the French Air Force. The event — which also contributed to the centennial celebrations of programme leader Dassault Aviation — marked the first time that a stealth aircraft controlled from the ground has flown in public.
The event – which was prepared by teams from Dassault Aviation, along with the French defense procurement agency DGA and the French Air Force – was rendered possible by the nEUROn’s reliability and safety record since the start of testing in 2012. The presentation, which was carried out by the Dassault Aviation flight test centre, lasted about 15 minutes. After takeoff, the nEUROn was joined by a Rafale fighter and a Falcon 8X bizjet. The three aircraft flew past in formation at an altitude of 150m above the Istres runway at 350km/h.
In March 2014, the nEUROn became the world’s first unmanned combat air vehicle to fly in formation with other aircraft — a Rafale and a Falcon 7X.
Outside the United States, the nEUROn team claims to be the first to have designed, built and flown a stealthy unmanned combat air vehicle demonstrator and the first to have submitted it to a comprehensive test program, including tests involving operational detection systems (radar and infrared) and the launch of a weapon from an internal bay at high speed.
The nEUROn programme involves partners from Italy, Sweden, Spain, Greece and Switzerland. The demonstrator made its first flight at Istres on 1st December 2012. The test schedule was completed in September 2015 with the 123rd flight. An additional series of tests was launched by the DGA in May 2016 to study the use of an unmanned combat air vehicle in a naval context.