France is in talks with French group Dassault Aviation to buy medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drones to enter service in 2014, Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said on Thursday.
“This acquisition will replace the drone system currently used by the armed forces, pending the entry into service around 2020 of the next generation of machines, developed as part of a Franco-British cooperation agreement signed in November 2010,” Longuet said in a statement.
Dassault Aviation is offering a French version of the Israeli Heron TP drone, built in cooperation with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
No further details on a possible deal were provided, but the announcement is seen as a victory for the French group over US rival General Atomic which makes the Reaper drone and European group EADS which makes the Harfang currently used by French forces and also based on an Israeli design.
Two next generation European drones are competing for markets to enter service towards the end of th decade: the Telemos developed jointly by Dassault Aviation and Britain’s BAE Systems and EADS’ Talarion.