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EADS Joins Finmeccanica With Dassault in European Drone Campaign

European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. is joining forces with Dassault Aviation SA and Italy’s Finmeccanica SpA to urge European states to back a drone effort and end reliance on U.S. and Israeli suppliers.

The partnership targets development of a medium-altitude long-endurance drone, the companies said today in a joint statement. The goal is to “foster the development of high technologies and contribute to sustaining key competencies and jobs within Europe.”

Germany and France have operated unmanned aircraft in Afghanistan based on Israeli designs, with Italy using Predator drones built by San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. French and German air forces have requirements for additional systems and are again considering overseas purchases, with no domestic alternative available.

“Such a joint program would support the capability needs of European armed forces while optimizing the difficult budgetary situation through pooling of research and development funding,” the companies said. “European sovereignty and independence in the management of information and intelligence would be guaranteed.”

EADS CEO Tom Enders said on June 13 that European inaction on drone development has led the region to lose at least 10 years in advances of the technology. The Toulouse-based company has spent more than 100 million euros ($133 million) of its own money on drones without returns because of lack of government support on systems including its Talarion design, he said.

What is holding European companies back is a lack of government funding, Dassault CEO Eric Trappier said June 14. The company had teamed up with BAE Systems Plc on a Anglo-French drone program that faltered on lack of government support.

Dassault continues to work with BAE to design a more capable unmanned combat aircraft. The companies are seeking to get a contract this year from France and the U.K. to continue and extend a study into a follow-up design phase, Trappier said.

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