Dassault combat drone vs Airbus DS: the battle of the European Loyal Wingmen is launched

If France and Germany, Dassault Aviation and Airbus DS, actively cooperate in the design of the FCAS program, they nonetheless remain competitors regarding current programs, Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon, in particular.

While the date of entry into service of the new 6th generation European fighter tends to slip from 2040 to 2045, or even 2050, depending on the sources, the need to equip Rafale and Eurofighter which they will replace, new capabilities allowing engagement in a heavily contested environment, have convinced Armies and Air Forces and industrialists, on both sides of the Rhine, to engage in the development of combat drones.

Regarding the design of heavy combat drones, or Loyal Wingmen, which will accompany French and German aircraft, these are precisely the two industrialists, also partners within FCAS, and rivals with the Rafale and Typhoon, Dassault aviation and Airbus DS, which are in charge of this mission.

The study of the combat drone derived from the Neuron to support the Rafale F5, entrusted to Dassault Aviation

Announced on the occasion of the development of the 2024-2030 Military Programming Law, the start of the design of a combat drone to support future Rafale F5, was eagerly awaited, including by the main interested party, Dassault Aviation.

Neuron Combat Drone Rafale Dassault Aviation
If the combat drone which will accompany the Rafale F5 will be derived from the Neuron, it will certainly be much more imposing, according to Eric Trappier.

It is now a done deal, if we are to believe the website LaTribune.fr, which reveals that an initial study contract worth 130 million euros was awarded to the French aircraft manufacturer, for the first phase of design of a combat drone derived from the Neuron demonstrator.

For the moment, both the Ministry of the Armed Forces, the DGA, the Armed Forces and French industrialists have remained very discreet on this subject. The best we know is that, according to Eric Trappier, the president of Dassault Aviation, the device will have to be larger and heavier than the Neuron, if it wants to effectively support the Rafale F5 in its missions, and that it is expected to enter service at the beginning of the next decade, as part of the future LPM.

We do not know, in particular, whether or not the new combat drone can be taken on board the French aircraft carrier. This would undoubtedly represent a formidable asset for the on-board aerial group, but risks significantly complicating the drone design work, and therefore extending deadlines and increasing costs.

Knowing the convolutions necessary to already fit all of the planned programs into the budget envelope planned for LPM 2024-2030, we can fear that this option will not be retained in Dassault's specifications.

Airbus DS presents a 1:1 model of its Loyal Wingmen to accompany the Eurofighter Typhoon of the Luftwaffe

If the development of the French combat drone, derived from the Neuron, had been formalized for a year now, that of a Loyal Wingmen type drone, on the other side of the Rhine, had only been discussed, more or less. less direct, by the German Ministry of Defense, and by the Luftwaffe.

EADS Airbus DS barracuda
The Brracuda combat drone demonstrator developed by EADS for the Luftwaffe.

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