France Sees Joint European Military Drone Project Launched This Year – The Defense Post

France is confident that a deal on developing a joint European military drone project will be signed this year, after the conclusion of tough price negotiations with manufacturers, the defense ministry said Wednesday.

“A few small details” still need to be worked out, but “we’re rather optimistic about this project,” an official in Defence Minister Florence Parly‘s office said.

The Eurodrone venture involving France, Germany, Italy, and Spain was announced in 2015 as a way for European nations to reduce their reliance on American-made Reaper drones.

Pan-European plane builder Airbus is the lead manufacturer for the planned medium-altitude, long-range vehicle, with France’s Dassault Aviation and Italy’s Leonardo also participating.

But disputes over the drone’s cost have held up the official launch of development and manufacturing.

The four governments have set a budget of 7.1 billion euros ($8.4 billion) to acquire 63 Eurodrones, spread over three operating systems.

The goal is to have each drone cost around 160 million euros, well below the 200 million euros per Reaper, with each flight-hour costing 3,000 euros instead of 4,000 for the US rival.

“We’re pretty much there,” the ministry official said. “Obviously there are development costs, a buy-in for having a European drone — Sovereignty has a cost, not at any price, but we accept this.”

If it goes ahead this year, the first Eurodrone system would be delivered to Germany in 2027, and to France