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European aviation firms Airbus, Dassault, Alenia poised to produce military drones

Europe's leading aviation companies have teamed up to develop and produce drones for military purposes in a drive to become independent of US technology. But governments have to decide about the drone's capabilities.

European aviation and defense companies Airbus, Dassault Aviation and Alenia Aermacchi said Monday they had launched a new initiative for the production of military drones for medium-altitude and long endurance (MALE) missions.

They offered to hold talks with the governments of Germany, France and Italy to agree on the drones' future capabilities. The companies said they had already signed a cooperation accord between them and decided on the division of labor at an industrial level.

European policy-makers have long debated the need to develop a military drone but have so far not been able to agree on a joint program.

Learning from past mistakes

In May 2013 the then German Defense Minister, Thomas de Maiziere, stopped the "Euro Hawk" project because of high costs and the absence of approval for the technology to be used in German air space.

Company leaders who announced the project said very careful planning procedures would prevent significant cost overruns this time around.

De Maizière faces questions over Euro Hawk

Airbus CEO Tom Enders had earlier warned that Europeans could not afford to wait for much longer as it would be unwise to leave the field completely to US competitors with their Predator drones (pictured above) and others.

Should governments in Europe approve the new project, the first drones could be operational as of 2020, the companies involved said in a joint statement Monday.

hg/jm (dpa, AFP)

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