EADS Pushing Harfang as MALE Gapfiller

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EADS says it will push to remain the incumbent supplier of medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial systems in Europe, where efforts to develop a pan-European MALE vehicle remain in flux.

Speaking to reporters in Berlin, EADS Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer Marwan Lahoud said development of a European MALE UAV is a long-term effort and that the company's Harfang UAV could serve as a gap-filler for European armed forces in the meantime.

"The only fielded MALE in service coming from European manufacturers in a European armed force is our system," he said during an annual EADS press conference here. Harfang, based on the Israel Aerospace Industries Heron UAV, is currently in service with the French armed forces. "So basically we're still pushing to see a pan-European program going forward even if this effort is delayed, and at the same time our strategy is to be incumbent and remain incumbent, i.e. play the role we deserve in these interim solutions."

France, which last year shelved long-term plans to develop a MALE system, has been weighing options for an interim solution to meet military requirements. These include Harfang and the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper.

Lahoud said EADS also expects to play a role in developing a European combat UAV, though last year the company said it had stopped investing in its Talarion unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) in light of tepid interest from governments.

"It will all depend on the reality and the materiality of programs launched by governments," Lahoud said. "Again, we will not - we we will not - enter a field that is not recognized by those governments as being a key requirement and therefore ... funded."

With Talarion out of the running, European UCAV developments include the French-led, multinational Neuron demonstrator, which saw its first flight in December last year, and the U.K.'s Taranis UCAV, which is expected to conduct its maiden demo in 2013.

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