Dassault Aviation SA and European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. should cooperate to build drones for the French and British militaries, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said.
France will need to buy non-French drones to fill a gap until 2016, the earliest that Dassault and EADS’s drone could be available, he said.
“It would be absurd for the state in its role as shareholder not to tell companies it has stakes in to work together,” he said at the Bourget Air Show. “The French British MALE accord will result in one drone; they will have to learn to work together,” he said, referring to Medium Altitude Long Endurance drones.
France and Britain pledged in the so-called Lancaster House agreement last November to jointly develop the next generation of drones to end their dependence on U.S. and Israeli unmanned aircraft. Drones have taken on an increasingly important role in reconnaissance and even ground attacks in conflicts such as Afghanistan.
Dassault is working with BAE Systems Plc on their Telemos drone, while EADS is developing its Talarion vehicle. Longuet wouldn’t say what drones he will buy to fill the gap.
“If I told you I want to buy Reapers, they’d just raise their prices,” he said, referring the unmanned military vehicles made by General Atomics.
“We can’t accept holes and we won’t sacrifice the security of our soldiers,” he said. “The choice is not binary or national. I’ll look for a synthesis between our need for capacity and supporting our national industry.”