The French and British governments have added more clarity on their plans for future unmanned aircraft collaboration and also put efforts for a deployable combined joint force headquarters on the front burner.

In providing more detail on their unmanned aircraft cooperation, France has agreed to evaluate, starting this year, the British Watchkeeper tactical unmanned aircraft to meet its own security needs. The French army has a long-standing requirement for a permanent tactical UAS to replace its interim, SDTI system, derived from the Sperwer system. The French assessment is to conclude next year.

Moreover, the flagship project, the cooperative effort in medium-altitude, long-endurance projects between BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation, also received a long-expected boost, with a commitment to have the partners work on a technical risk reduction phase to help define an objective system. That system is notionally to be fielded by around 2020.

The two companies will also be involved in a joint Future Combat Air Systems Demonstration program, planned for next year. BAE Systems already does work in the UCAS realm, under the Taranis program, and Dassault Aviation leads the European Neuron demonstrator project. Specifications for the demonstrator are to be drawn up this year.

The moves are part of a range of activities agreed late last week during a meeting of French president Nicholas Sarkozy and British prime minister David Cameron and comes despite tensions between the two over European Union fiscal policy issues. A November summit was supposed to address the security issues dealt with on Feb. 17, but the euro-crisis forced defense considerations to be delayed.

Also on the agenda was the commitment to set up a Franco-British deployable joint force headquarters by 2016, with the goal of having it capable to integrating representatives from allied militaries.

Other equipment topics touched on include cooperation in the realm of beyond line-of-sight satellite communications, with an assessment of “architectural options” to take place this year.

The two sides also vowed cooperation in the realm of maritime mine countermeasures, submarine technologies (particularly sonar) and armoured vehicle armament.