The European medium altitude long endurance (MALE) remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) is an unmanned aerial vehicle programme being managed by the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR).
The European MALE RPAS will have the ability to perform long-endurance intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions.
The unmanned system is being developed by Airbus, Dassault Aviation and Leonardo for use by the armed forces of France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
The MALE RPAS full-size mock-up was unveiled at the ILA Air Show held in Berlin, in April 2018. The MALE RPAS was showcased in Tag der Bundeswehr held at Bundeswehr Research Institute for Materials, Fuels and Lubricants (WIWeB) in June 2019.
The first flight is expected to be conducted in 2025 while the delivery of the first serial items to the programme participating states (PPS) is scheduled to take place in 2028.
European MALE RPAS development details
The EU commission identified the European MALE RPAS programme as the direct award project within the European defence industrial development (EDIDP) work programme which offers €500m ($600m) funding for the joint industrial development of defence equipment and technologies during 2019-2020.
The development of European MALE RPAS will mainly strengthen the European defence technological and industrial base. The MALE RPAS programme was integrated into OCCAR in August 2016 and the definition study (stage one) contract was signed with the co-contracting group comprising Airbus, Dassault Aviation and Leonardo in the same month of 2016.
A new office for the OCCAR MALE RPAS programme division (MRPD) at Hallbergmoos was officially opened in October 2016.
In February 2017, the European Defence Agency (EDA) announced that it will provide nine networked procedural trainers for the European MALE RPAS.
The project will deliver hardware simulators, improved harmonisation and interoperability and realistic operational scenarios for the MALE RPAS in partnership with the European Air Group (EAG) and the European Union Military Staff (EUMS).
The stage one witnessed the achievement of two major milestones including the system requirement review and the system preliminary design review in January and November 2018 respectively. The tender invitation for the stage two contract was issued to Airbus D&S in October 2018.
The negotiation phase between OCCAR and Airbus Defence and Space for the second stage contract was completed in November 2020. The contract includes the development and production of 20 systems and initial in-service support for five years.
European MALE RPAS design and features
The remotely piloted aerial vehicle will have an overall length of 16m, a height of 6m and a wingspan of 26m. The maximum take-off weight of the UAV will be 11t, while the maximum payload capacity will be up to 2,300kg.
The unmanned system will carry a variety of payloads and precision weapons for ground support missions. It is expected to gain full airworthiness certification and air traffic integration capability in non-segregated airspace.
The MALE RPAS will feature all weather capability, efficient maintenance, 24/7 day and night mission capability as well as interoperability with the existing and future defence systems.
The unmanned aerial vehicle is designed to fly in non-segregated airspace and its characteristics will include mission modularity for operational superiority in wide area and in-theatre intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
Engine and performance
The unmanned aerial vehicle will be powered by a twin-turboprop engine and the power-plant will allow the aircraft to cruise at a speed of 500km/h. It will be able to fly at an altitude of up to 13,700m.
The European MALE RPAS MRPD contracted DFS Aviation Services (DAS) for the preliminary safety assessment of the unmanned system in September 2018.