Europe’s UCAV Demonstrator Neuron Will Be a Stealth Platform
UCAV Demonstrator Neuron Will Be a Stealth Platform
Paris Air Show 2005. June 10th, 2005.
- A Structuring Project for the European Defence Industry.
Charles Edelstenne presents the Neuron
to French President Chirac (Dassault
For the next twenty years, the
European Combat Aircraft Industry has to face three main challenges:
The development of the strategic
technologies that the US are mastering – or will master – and that will never
be transferred to Europe;
Upholding of its skill and
excellency. In a lot of areas, European industry has technical competence and
field excellence and, because of a lack of workload, this know-how might
Workload for the European design
The Neuron mockup is unveiled for
President Chirac (Dassault
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 there will be no such
opportunity before the horizon 2030 at the earliest.
Facing such a situation, the French Government has decided to take the
initiative by launching a project of unmanned combat air vehicle technological
demonstrator in European co-operation.
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. This project will be go beyond the
theoretical studies that have been conducted until now in the European Union, as
it plan the building and flight demonstration of an aircraft.
The Neuron mockup at the Paris Air Show
(Photo Hugues Dumont)
The French initiative is also a way to implement an innovative process in terms
of European 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
An unique Executive Agency, the French DGA, awards a main contract to the
Prime Contractor and manages the project
A unique Prime Contractor, Dassault Aviation, is charge of the main
Ever since the beginning of the programme, the French authorities have clearly
stated their will that the UCAV technological Demonstrator project should
contribute to the build-up of a European defence identity by fully opening it to
co-operation. As such, half of the tasks will be entrusted to non-French
In terms of management, this organisation will guarantee the best efficiency in
a full partnership approach and cooperative relations between the various actors,
as well as an improved budgetary control.
Neuron Photo de famille avec les
coopérants du projet Neuron (Dassault Aviation Photo)
The Neuron programme has been launched by the French Defence Minister at the
last Le Bourget airshow (2003).
The main contract of the Neuron project has been initialised with the prime
contractor during the first half of 2005. The industrial partnership contracts
have been signed concurrently and the first flight of the technological
demonstrator is planned for 2010:
The demonstration goals are:
Performing an Air to Ground mission, inserted in a Network Centric Warfare.
Designing a stealth platform (Radar cross section and Infrared).
Weapon delivery from an internal bay with stringent tempo constraint.
Nota: 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 flying vectors.
Its aim 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, new weapons or a
specific new power plant; 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
It is clear that through these demonstration missions, the goals are to validate
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 exchanges.
Dassault Aviation Picture
The Neuron platform will be stealth. In this field,
mature technologies have to be demonstrated. Neuron will be the first large size
stealth platform designed in Europe.
Building on the experience gained from recent projects, for the first time in a
military project, it will be designed and developed within the frame, a
completely integrated PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) environment, through a
virtual development platform, allowing Dassault Aviation and its five partners,
in five countries, to simultaneously work together on the same design,
independently from the location where the work is performed.
The main technological challenges to be addressed during the design are the
forms of the vehicle (aerodynamic, composite structure, internal weapon bay),
higher reliance on electrical systems and advanced conditioning system, the
insertion of this type of aircraft within the airspace, the high-level
algorithms necessary to develop automated processes, as well the place of the
human factor within the mission loop.
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 other working groups in Europe study this subject.
- Air to Surface weapon delivery from internal bay, with external
As far as the planning is concerned, the major steps are:
To date: The various Memoranda Of Understanding between
European companies concerning work packages have been concluded.
Right now, the industrial team have started the conceptual
definition and the feasability studies of the technological demonstrator,
aiming at a first flight mid-2010.
From 2010, the demonstrator will be delivered to the
Executive Agency for experimentation.
In accordance with the guidelines defined by the DGA,
Dassault Aviation has entrusted 50% of the work value to European partners,
which in this case means non-French industrials. In order to achieve such a
target, the prime contractor has proceeded 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.
Competitiveness. 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 has
been negotiated at governmental level.
After consultation with many European countries, both at
Government and at industrial levels, the resulting industrial team answers these
criteria and offers the best guarantees for success of the project. It includes
(in the chronological order in which the agreements have been signed):
SAAB (Sweden) which is entrusted with the general design,
the equipped fuselage, the avionics, the fuel system and part of the flight
Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI) is responsible for the
rear fuselage, the exhaust pipe and the test rig;
EADS (Spain) will bring its experience for the wings, the
ground station, and the data link integration;
RUAG (Switzerland) is taking care of the wind tunnel tests,
and the weapon interface;
Alenia (Italy) will, among others, contribute with a new
concept of internal weapon bay (Smart Weapon Bay), as well as by the design
and development of the electrical power system, the air data system and the
In addition to being the design authority, Dassault Aviation
takes care of the general design and architecture of the system, the flight
control system, the final assembly and the ground tests as well as the flight
As 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
Contacts: Gérard David: 01.47.11.86.90 (Corporate
Communications) -- Yves Robins: 01.47.11.81.37. (Military Exportations).