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The Neuron makes its first flight

The Neuron in preparation for the first flight (© Dassault Aviation - Ph. Stroppa)

(BRUSSELS2) It was in Istres today (December 1st) in the south of France. All alone (or almost), the Neuron made its first flight. This stealth combat drone demonstrator is in fact flown on land. It was the Dassault Aviation teams who held the control, under the watchful eye of technical experts from the DGA who ensured control of the airspace (so that nothing would spoil or delay this flight). Started in 2003, notified in 2006, this program should prepare the ground for a combat drone or future fighter aircraft by 2030.

The test campaign begins

This flight is a major step » is the opinion of the DGA because this opens the way for flight test campaigns of the demonstrator in Italy, Sweden and France. These tests aim to demonstrate the flight qualities of the platform, but also to evaluate its stealth and combat capabilities. The drone must, in fact, be capable of executing an air-ground mission, based on the detection, localization and recognition of targets on the ground, autonomously, that is to say by rectifying its position if necessary. ; then to carry out a shot from an internal hold, within very short response times. The demonstrator also makes it possible to evaluate the detectability of a stealth platform in the face of ground and air threats, both in the field of radar signature and in that of infrared signature. 9 m long, with a wingspan of 12 m, with a total weight of 7 tonnes, the Neuron can reach a maximum speed of 980 km/hour close to Mach 1 (1220 km/h).

European program

Started in 2003, Neuron is a program carried out in European cooperation, with 5 other countries (Italy, Sweden, Spain, Greece, Switzerland) but under strong French leadership. The DGA manages the project and is the sole executing agency. While Dassault Aviation, as sole prime contractor, is responsible for the execution of the main contract. “ The objective of this project is not to create new technological capabilities in Europe, but to make the most of existing niches” is estimated at Dassault.

Breakdown of tasks

The French manufacturer is responsible for the overall design and architecture of the system, flight controls, stealth devices, final assembly, systems integration, as well as ground and flight testing. The Italian Alenia Aermacchi contributes to the project with an innovative concept of internal weapons bay (known as “Smart Integrated Weapon Bay” – SIWB), an internal EO/IR sensor, cargo doors and their opening mechanism, as well as the electrical system of the platform, and the anemometry. The Swedish SAAB is in charge of the design of the main fuselage, the landing gear doors, the avionics, as well as the fuel system. The Euro-Spanish (EADS-CASA) brings its experience for the wings, the ground segment, and the integration of the data link. The Greek Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI) is responsible for the rear section of the fuselage, the nozzle, as well as the supply of racks for the “global integration bench”. While the Swiss RUAG takes care of the low-speed wind tunnel tests, and the interfaces between the platform and the weapons. Note that there is no British in this project, BAE Systems is in fact developing a competing system, the Taranis.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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