A letter of intent signed last week at an Anglo-French summit in Britain calls for a new phase of work in the field of combat drones is to be undertaken in the next two years and will focus on system architectures, selected key technologies and the definition of means of simulation.
The work, for which the countries will jointly commit as much as $198 million, will build on the preparatory phase initiated by Paris and London in July 2012. Dassault Aviation and BAE Systems were project leaders in that effort, along with Thales, Selex ES Safran and Rolls-Royce.
"Together with Dassault, we welcome the further support from our governments for our joint work in developing this important defense capability for the United Kingdom and France," BAE Systems Chief Executive Officer Ian King said in a company release. "Given the strong research and development investment and progress in technology that has already been made, continuing work in unmanned air systems will also ensure we maintain the core knowledge and key skills necessary to make a make a long term contribution to both our national economies."
Rolls-Royce and Snecma, part of France's Safran group, also welcomed the ongoing joint development of unmanned aerial vehicles and the engines that will power them. They said their joint venture company, Rolls-Royce Snecma Ltd., will keep exploring propulsion system concepts and technologies as part of the Anglo-French Future Combat Air Systems Demonstration Program that began in 2012.
"We are pleased that our two governments have confirmed the continuation of this program. Our teams are focused on delivering the highest capabilities from France and U.K. in [the] defense propulsion domain, and meeting the challenging expectations of this program both on technical aspects and affordability," said Didier Desnoyer, Snecma vice president and general manager for military engines.
The two governments also signed a memorandum of understanding to initiate the development of prototype unmanned surface and underwater vehicles for the detection and neutralization of mines on the seabed.
The French Defense Ministry said as a result of discussions between the two countries, development and production of a new missile is also to get under way. The weapon will be called the Anti-Navires Leger and is to be used by helicopters against fast patrol boats and other small vessels.
"Britain and France are natural partners for defense cooperation," British Defense Minister Philip Hammond said following the summit. "We have made substantial progress since the Lancaster House Treaty was signed in 2010 and today we have committed ourselves to go further still."