Is the articulation of European programs effective?

The European Defense industry has not particularly stood out in recent years for its ability to implement multinational programs. With 7 industrial partners, 3 aircraft manufacturers (Airbus, Dassault and Leonardo) and 4 equipment manufacturers (Thales, Hensodt, Indra and Elettronica), the European Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drone project, unofficially called EuroMale, combines several difficulties. Thus, Airbus, the prime contractor, would not have demonstrated its capabilities to design devices for military purposes, while several players in the program, under demonstrations of cordial understanding, will have great difficulty in collaborating. Finally, the limited prospects of the program could lead manufacturers to favor more ambitious programs, such as the FCAS.

It is obvious that these arguments do not come from the fertile imagination of the journalist, and that they reflect positions expressed by industrialists, and in particular French industrialists. They are the consequence of the failures or semi-failures of past programs, such as the A400M, which do not seem to have given rise to sufficient feedback, particularly at the political decision level. 

But the main problem lies in the lack of prospects of the program, conceived as a single-product program, and not as the basis of a global initiative of European industries in terms of surveillance drones. As was the case with the NH90, and the A400M, the EuroMale is a program which leaves manufacturers without long-term industrial benefit, each having developed only a necessary but not sufficient part of the drone. Given the technological choices, such as the use of 2 engines, the price of this device will be high, and it will have difficulty establishing itself on the export market in the face of American, Israeli and especially Chinese competition, which is very aggressive on prices. In fact, manufacturers are called upon to invest in know-how with weak export prospects, a limited domestic market, and without a vision of developing a product range. 

Let us recognize that, in these conditions, the program is very uninviting...

On the other hand, if the program was designed as the initial building block of a family of surveillance drones, working across the entire spectrum of needs, each development feeding the others with its feedback and commercial success; industrialists would approach the subject with a very different vision, and would consider industrial collaboration with new perspectives, possibly leading to the creation of a joint venture, as was the case, for example, with MBDA. 

This is one of the approaches developed in the European Defense Base program, which is a part of the Positive Value Defense doctrine.

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