France and Britain on Thursday inked a deal to invest more than two billion euros in the development of next generation combat drones, Paris said in a statement.
Following a two-year feasibility study begun in 2014, “we hope to proceed to the next phase in 2017 to prepare for the full-fledged development of operational demonstrators of air combat drones by 2025,” the statement said.
“This test programme, the most advanced in Europe, will be based on a platform of multi-purpose drones that could provide the basis for future operational capacity beyond 2030,” it said.
More than two billion euros will be invested in the programme, it said, adding that work on the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) would be submitted to a technical review around 2020.
The British and French governments tasked BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation with the feasibility study costing 120 million pounds (150 million euros, $170 million) in November 2014.
In addition to the two main groups, Rolls-Royce and Safran were assigned to work on propulsion systems while Selex ES and Thales was put in charge of electronics and sensors.
Dassault has already developed a stealth drone named Neuron, a prototype for testing and developing technologies for the FCAS. BAE Systems also developed its own drone, the Taranis.
The Franco-British combat drone programme comes under the so-called Lancaster House treaties signed in 2010 which aimed at building a more efficient joint defence.
For the contractors involved it is also a matter of keeping up with US defence industry rivals.