Tag Archives: MALE RPAS


On 24/02/2022, OCCAR-EA Director, Matteo Bisceglia, on behalf of the German, French, Italian and Spanish Participating States, was delighted to sign the European Medium Altitude Long Endurance Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (MALE RPAS) Stage 2 Contract with Airbus Defence & Space GmbH represented by the CEO, Michael Schoellhorn.

European MALE RPAS Stage 2 Contract with Airbus Defence & Space GmbH

This important contract for Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d’ARmement (OCCAR) and European defence encompasses the development and manufacture of 20 Medium Altitude Long Endurance air systems and more than 5 years of initial in-service support. The European MALE RPAS will offer capabilities that are beyond state of the art, especially in safety, information security and in the field of Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR). The manufacture of the first Prototype is expected to commence in 2024.

This critical cooperative programme draws on the expertise of three major sub-contractors (Dassault Aviation S.A., Leonardo S.p.A and Airbus Defence & Space SAU) and, through an open tendering process, mid-cap European system suppliers in the value chain and across the entire supply base. The early phase of the programme is co-funded by the European Union through the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) with the aim to strengthen Europe’s strategic autonomy and sovereignty.

The European MALE RPAS Stage 1 Contract, a Definition Study, was launched in 2016 to define common requirements between Germany, France, Italy and Spain and was successfully concluded in 2018 with the System Preliminary Design Review. The subsequent years have been spent ensuring that the follow-on Stage 2 contract would meet Programme Participating States’ expectations in terms of performance, affordability and value for money. In that respect, the successful completion of this negotiation phase was only made possible thanks to the unwavering drive of OCCAR-EA, nations and industry teams to adhere to established cooperation procurement best practices. Demonstrating that the only way for nations to be able to acquire complex capabilities such as MALE RPAS is through cooperation. As such, the MALE RPAS programme includes but is not limited to a common configuration, a single final assembly line, a common training and support solution and the firm determination to maintain a common organisation to manage all certification, qualification and accreditation activities.

Maritime Surveillance

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) awarded a contract to Airbus Defence and Space Airborne Solutions (ADAS), a 100% subsidiary of Airbus Defence and Space and the global market leader in Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) services, and its long-term partner Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to operate a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) RPAS for Maritime Aerial Surveillance services.

European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) selects Airbus and its partner IAI for Maritime Aerial Surveillance with Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)

The service will be delivered in Greece, and/or Italy and/or Malta within a Framework Contract. The service include the provision of a RPAS platform, payload, communication equipment and capacity, mission storage and all necessary experts managing the system and providing operational support. Under the contract, Airbus and IAI will provide the service for pre-planned assignments as well as for ad-hoc calls.

The maritime Heron RPAS from IAI serves a range of customers worldwide and is a part of the well-known «Heron family» which accumulates over 450,000 flight hours, day and night missions under all weather conditions. The system is capable of flying more than 24 hours in full operational configuration and creates a comprehensive, real time, naval picture in geographical areas for potential surveillance interests, e.g. in the context of coordinated European monitoring activities.

The RPAS will be fitted with versatile dedicated payloads (e.g. electro-optical for day and infrared for night purposes, maritime patrol radar made by IAI and automatic identification system), relevant communication equipment, and corresponding ground mission control and support. The surveillance platform Heron uses a direct link when flying within Line of Sight (LOS), changing seamlessly to a satellite link when flying Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) to transmit real time information or when needed to fly in low altitude over sea. This information is being transmitted to Frontex command and control centre as well as to centres of the respective Coast Guards.

Numerous trials were successfully held over the past years to confirm and highlight the benefits of unmanned aerial systems in terms of precise and long endurance surveillance. The maritime Heron is being used amongst others by the Israeli navy as its key patrolling tool, successfully performing reconnaissance and security assignments since many years.

Mike Hoofdmann, CEO of ADAS underlined that this contract for long endurance maritime surveillance for Frontex marks a new milestone for the company to extend its successful unmanned operational services for military customers also to civil stakeholders such as Frontex and eventually other agencies. «This contract gives us the opportunity to prove our performance on a European level. We as Airbus together with our partner IAI make an essential commitment to the monitoring and security of European external border and thus contribute to the stability in Europe», adds Hoofdmann.

«IAI welcomes the signing of the contract with Frontex and achieving this landmark with the maritime Heron. The Heron has successfully fulfilled all missions, exceeding the expectations of its operators. Flying in Europe’s civilian airspace is an important progress for IAI and a solid proof for the RPAS’s ability to fly in civilian routes. I believe this contract will open the door to more civilian markets», said IAI Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Military Aircraft Group, Moshe Levy.

MALE Program

The first full scale model of the European Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance Remotely Piloted Aircraft (MALE RPAS) was unveiled on April 26, 2018 during a ceremony held at the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show, which opened its gates at Schönefeld airport.

Leading aerospace contractors from France, Germany, Italy and Spain unveiled at the Berlin air show a full-scale mockup of the future European MALE drone, emphasizing their commitment to the program (Airbus photo)
Leading aerospace contractors from France, Germany, Italy and Spain unveiled at the Berlin air show a full-scale mockup of the future European MALE drone, emphasizing their commitment to the program (Airbus photo)

The reveal ceremony, led by Dirk Hoke, Airbus Defence and Space Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Eric Trappier, Dassault Aviation Chairman and CEO and Lucio Valerio Cioffi, Leonardo’s Aircraft Division Managing Director, confirms the commitment of the four European States and Industrial partners to jointly develop a sovereign solution for European Defence and Security.

The unveiling of the full-scale model and the reaffirmed commitment comes after a nearly two-year definition study launched in September 2016 by the four participating nations Germany, France, Italy and Spain and follows the Declaration of Intent to work together on a European MALE unmanned aerial system signed by the countries in May 2015.

«While still a lot of work lies ahead of us, this full-scale model represents a first milestone of what Europe can achieve in a high-technology sector if it bundles its industrial strength and know-how», said Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space. «The MALE RPAS will become an integral part in guaranteeing Europe’s sovereignty in the future. This programme is ideally suited to meet urgent capability requirements of Europe’s armed forces. This innovative partnership also eases the countries’ constrained budgetary situation through clever pooling of research and development funds», he added.

«Today’s unveiling reflects our companies’ total dedication to the European Defence and Security sovereignty. Cooperation and high technology legitimate the leadership of the European Industry and guarantee the strategic autonomy of Europe», declared Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation. «Innovative programmes through efficient partnerships will serve European competitiveness and will offer new alternatives to the off-the-shelf acquisition of non-European products. Dassault Aviation reaffirms its full support to Airbus Defence and Space as programme leader of the MALE RPAS».

«Unmanned technologies and their applications represent one of the key technological foundations for the future evolution of European Defence Industries», said Lucio Valerio Cioffi, Leonardo’s Aircraft Division Managing Director. «The European MALE RPAS is orientated to foster the development of high technologies and will contribute to sustaining key competencies and jobs within Europe providing Armed Forces with a high performance and sovereign operational system», he added.