Martin Manaranche contributed to this story
This story was updated twice with statement from Airbus
According to the ministry of Armed Forces, the measure save 15 jobs over two years. In total a budget of € 600 million have been allocated for this recovery plan which also covers the early procurement of 3 A330-MRTT; 1 ISTAR aircraft and 8 H225M helicopters for the French Air Force. The current economic crisis (due to the COVID-19) is directly impact the French aerospace sector, which represents 300,000 jobs and € 58 billion in turnover.
The VTOL UAV that will be procured for the French Navy is the VSR700 as part of the SDAM program (systèmes de drone aérien de la marine or airborne drone system of the navy). It is based on the Cabri G2 manned helicopter platform design by French SME Guimbal. The platform is marinized and militarized by Airbus Helicopters and Naval Group.
The light fixed wing UAV that will be procured for the French Navy is the Aliaca by French SME SURVEY Copter as part of the SMDM program (systèmes de mini-drones embarqués or light embarked drone system)
Marine Nationale’s Chief-of-Staff admiral Christophe Prazuck announced his wish to see 1200 drones in the French Navy by 2030 last year as we reported at the time.
About VSR700 Naval VTOL UAV
The VSR700 was being pitched by Airbus Helicopters and Naval Group for the French Navy’s « Système de drone aérien pour la Marine » (SDAM) program, initially scheduled for 2028. They will be deployed aboard the future frigates of the French Navy, the FDI as well as the FREMM.
The VSR700 made its maiden flight on November 8. 2019 at the Aix-en-Provence drone test center (south of France). Several test captive flights were successfully performed on an enhanced version of the UAV.
The VSR700 has a maximum take-off weight between 500 and 1000 kg, Airbus stated. The VSR700 capabilities are not officially known, but is expected to « automatically land and take-off, fly for ten hours at 100 Nm and carry 100 kilos of payload, i.e. radar and optronics.
Update 1: Airbus Helicopters’ head of communication explained on Twitter that the announcement made yesterday by the French Minister is for the procurement of a second VSR700 demonstrator:
Update 2: Airbus Helicopters contacted Naval News to share the following statement:
A second demonstrator for the French Navy’s “Système de Drone Aérien pour la Marine” programme has also been confirmed by the French Ministry of Armed Forces as part of the PlanAero. A first SDAM demonstrator to perform sea trials is currently being prepared through a de-risking contract signed at the end of 2017. This contract signed by Airbus and Naval Group also involves French SME and in particular Hélicoptères Guimbal, which produces the Cabri G2 helicopter, from which the SDAM is derived. This additional SDAM demonstrator will enable the programme to further secure the next steps, and in particular the development of technologies and the refinement of specifications to meet the French Navy’s operational requirements.Airbus spokesperson
Airbus added that according to the French military planning law (LPM), 15 SDAM systems are set to be delivered to the French Navy from 2028.
About SURVEY copter’s Aliaca UAV
The Aliaca is a light fixed wing UAV that is set to be deployed aboard the future offshore patrol vessels of the French Navy (both the POM and future PHM replacement) as part of the SMDM program. The deliveries of the first “SMDM UAVs” were set to start this year anyways (according to the official publication of the French Navy).
Its mission will be to control the tactical situation around its mother-ship between 10 and 50 nautical miles. Similar in concept to the popular ScanEagle by Insitu, it will be launched via catapult and recovered via a net, meaning it may be deployed from smaller ships, even those not fitted with an helicopter deck.
ALIACA is an electrically-propelled UAV developed by Survey Copter. It has a 3h flight endurance for a range between 10 and 50 Km. It can perform intelligence gathering (ISR); coastal surveillance; surveillance of sensitive areas. ALIACA UAV is fitted with a gyro-stabilized turret, installed in a vertical position and providing the UAV with a 360° panoramic coverage. The UAV system should be able to be deployed in less than 10 minutes with a maximum payload of 1.1 Kg.