Neuron : Europe’s UCAV Demonstrator
Neuron : Europe’s UCAV Demonstrator
A Structuring Project for
the European Defence Industry. Source:
Dassault Aviation. June 14, 2004.
The European Combat Aircraft Industry, at
the beginning of the 21th century, has to face three main
Development of its strategic know-how.
Upholding of its skill and excellency. In a lot a areas,
European industry has technical competence and field excellence.
Workload for the European production facilities.
The best way to take up these challenges
would be to launch a new Combat Aircraft Programme in Europe, based on an
entirely European development. Unfortunately, if one looks at the need for
replacing existing combat aircraft in Europe, it appears clearly that the next
fighter programme needed will be at the horizon 2030 at the earliest.
In front of such a situation, it is clear
that the risk for European Industry is to loose competencies and capabilities.
Facing such a situation, the French Government has decided to react, launching a
European technological project in order to fulfil challenges described
The Neuron Demonstrator
The aim of French Initiative on the Neuron
Demonstrator is to provide European design offices with a project which will
allow them to develop know-how and to maintain capabilities in the coming years.
The difference with other studies already launched in Europe Union is to make
this project not only as a paper work, but to manufacture a technological
The French initiative is also a way to
implement an innovative process in terms of co-operative programme management
and organisation. To be effective, a co-operative programme management needs a
single point of decision, and a single point of implementation.
For that reasons, the Neuron technological
Demonstrator project is organised as follows:
An unique Executive Agency, the French DGA, will award a
main contract to the Prime Contractor and which will manage the project
An unique Prime Contractor, Dassault Aviation, will be in
charge of the main contract implementation.
The French authorities have clearly stated
that the UCAV technological Demonstrator project is defined as an European
programme, fully open to co-operation. As such, half of the tasks, in value
terms, will be done by non-French companies.
In terms of management, this organisation
will guarantee the best efficiency in a full partnership approach and
cooperative relations between the various actors.
To achieve such a target, Dassault
Aviation as the Prime Contractor has to create a team of European companies. The
French DGA, as the Executive Agency, has to discuss with representatives of
European governments in order to finalise the terms and conditions of their
participation to the project.
This innovative organisation is expected
to fulfil requirements in terms of performance, budget and planning.
Neuron, Europe’s UCAV demonstrator, is a
Technological Demonstrator: that means it will not answer to military
operational requirements or needs, but it will allow application, integration
and validation of technologies already existing or to be developed for unmanned
Its aims is not to perform military
missions, but to demonstrate maturity and effectiveness of technical solutions.
Of course, this technological Demonstrator
will use all the Command, Control, Communication, Coordination and Information
technologies for Unmanned Air Vehicle, integrated in tomorrow’s Network Centric
It is not a target for this project to
develop new sensors or new weapons; nevertheless, it is the intention to perform
demonstration with a modular and reliable avionics system, using COTS-based
modular on-board computers, and high-productivity and high-quality critical
The Neuron programme has been launched by
the French Defence Minister at the last Le Bourget airshow.
The aims of such a project are:
Mastery of UCAV technologies in Europe,
Maintaining the necessary level of European know-how and
Preparation of the future European Combat Aircraft.
The project itself is planned as follow:
The demonstration goals will be:
Performance of an Air to Ground mission, inserted in a
Network Centric Warfare.
Stealth platform (Radar cross section and Infra red).
Air to Ground weapon delivery for internal bay with
stringent tempo constraint.
It is clear that through these goals, the
objectives are to demonstrate technologies around command and control of an
Unmanned Vehicle of a size similar to a combat aircraft, with all back-up modes
insuring necessary safety end security. This Vehicle will be inserted in a
Network Centric Warfare, giving capabilities of control and information
The Neuron platform will be stealth. In
this field, mature technologies have to be demonstrated.
The last but certainly not the least
important technology to be demonstrated is the capability to load and to deliver
weapons from an internal bay. Today, European aircraft have external loading
capabilities for bombs and missiles. At a later stage, it is envisaged also to
implement various carrying capabilities inside the internal bay such as recce
equipments or others.
The scenarios to be performed in this
demonstration are as follow:
Air to ground subsonic mission. The range of the mission is
not considered as a critical parameter.
Test range airspace insertion. It is not a target to
demonstrate a complete traffic insertion of the technological Demonstrator
inside the Air traffic, where this subject is studied by other working groups
Air to Surface weapon delivery from internal bay, with
As far as the planning
is concerned, the major steps are:
Signature of agreements between governments concerning terms and conditions of
participation to the project. Discussions and signature of Memorandum Of
Understanding between European companies concerning work packages .
From the award of the main contract, up to 2009, the
partners will design, manufacture and test the technological demonstrator.
From 2009, the demonstrator will be delivered to the
Executive Agency for experimentation.
day, in the phase of creating partnership with European companies, the
co-operation strategy followed by Dassault Aviation is to offer 50% of the work
value to European companies, which in this case means non-French industrials.
order to achieve such a target, Dassault Aviation as the Prime Contractor of the
project will proceed to selection of partners based on:
Experience and excellency. The
objective in this project is not to create new capabilities everywhere in
Europe but to take full benefit of existing technological niches.
The project has an ambition to find ways for costs reduction. Each partner in
addition to the technical excellency, is invited to apply for the most
efficient "value for money".
State budget allocation: It is
a condition fixed by the French DGA that each country having ambition to
participate to the Neuron project will contribute to its financing. For more
flexibility, no constraint in term of "geographical return" is assigned to
this project. That part is negotiated at governmental level.
a conclusion, Neuron is a great chance for the European industry.
To develop its capabilities in the UAV field
To keep and maintain its competence in order to be ready
for the next European combat aircraft,
To experience a new programme management process in a more