French Defense Minister Wants to Start Over on Drone Development

France’s new defense minister said he’ll “go back to square one” on plans to build military drones.

“I want to start afresh,” Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in Paris at his first press conference since being sworn in May 17. “I want to move fast, but without passion and with pragmatism.”

In February, ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy and the British government asked BAE Systems Plc and Dassault Aviation SA to start work on a medium-altitude long-endurance drone for reconnaissance that would be available for flights from 2020, as well as to explore development of a UCAV, or unmanned combat aerial vehicle, by 2030.

In March, European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., the parent of Airbus SAS, said it wasn’t continuing with its own drone, called Talarion, after failing to win government funding. The previous French defense minister, Gerard Longuet, had criticized Dassault and EADS for not working more closely together on drones.

Le Drian said hasn’t yet had time to look into whether to go ahead with a Sarkozy-era contract to sell the Mistral-class command-and-control ship to Russia.

Le Drian said a study on French military spending will be ready by the end of the year, with a multi-year budget agreed by mid-2013.

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