Announced in 2017, the Remote Carriers airborne combat drone program is one of the seven pillars of the Future Air Combat System, which brings together Germany, Spain, France and, more recently, Belgium as 'observer.
It is broken down into two sub-programs, one "heavy", entrusted to the German Airbus Defense & Space , which must produce a combat drone comparable in mass and mission to the Loyal Wingman developed across the Atlantic and in Australia , the other “light and consumable”, entrusted to the French MBDA.
It is precisely the European missile maker who revealed, during an interview given as part of the 2023 Paris Air Show , a lot of information on the drone currently in development, as well as on the use that will be made of it and the considerable operational added value that it will bring to the SCAF program, but also, probably, to the Rafale F5 .
Currently called " Remote Carrier Expendable " or RCE, which can be translated as Consumable Transport Drone , the device will have dimensions close to those of a cruise missile, with a length of 4 meters, but a much smaller mass of only 400 kg, allowing it not only to take place under the wings of a combat aircraft, but also of a drone with more constraints in terms of carrying capacities, for example the Eurodrone RPAS, the 'Aarok, the heavy Remote Carrier, but also the drone derived from the Neuron whose development was announced during the LPM 2024-2030 vote in France.
First surprise in the statements of Judde de Larivière, who directs the FCAS program at MBDA, the RCE could also be implemented by non-aerial vectors, such as land vehicles, ships and, even more unexpectedly, submarines. , naturally opening the way to very wide use of the system.
The device itself is designed to reproduce the performance and behavior of a fighter plane or a cruise missile, with high subsonic speed and significant maneuvering capabilities, which in fact seems to be its primary function.
Indeed, according to MBDA, the RCE is above all designed to bring the adversary's anti-aircraft defenses to reveal themselves by reproducing the behavior of an important target, so that they can be engaged and destroyed by the aircraft. carrier, or by its capabilities deployed as part of the combat system.
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