For the EuroDrone, Airbus chooses the turboprop proposed by the Italian subsidiary of General Electric

After months of debate over specifications and costs, the Joint Organization for Armaments Cooperation [OCCAr] finally notified the contract for the development and production of the future MALE drone [Moyenne Altitude Longue Endurance] European [ou Eurodrone] to Airbus Defense & Space GmbH, the prime contractor for this programme, carried out in cooperation with Dassault Aviation [chargé notamment des commandes de vol électriques] and leonardo.

However, one detail remained to be resolved, and no less important: the motorization of this future device, which will need two turboprops to move its ten tons. Two manufacturers competed: the French Safran, with the Ardiden TP3, and Avio Aero, the Italian subsidiary of the American General Electric [GE]with catalyst [ex-Advanced Turboprop, ou ATP]

On March 25, Airbus put an end to the suspense, through a press release: while it is said in all tones that the Eurodrone is a great program for European strategic autonomy, the choice of the main contractor finally focused on the Catalyst which, designed by GE, will also equip the Beechcraft Denali from the American manufacturer Textron.

“The Catalyst was chosen for its better competitiveness. We have a more mature solution, which is being tested on a commercial aircraft. […], we estimate, in comparison, a lower risk of development”, explained Jean-Brice Dumont, head of Airbus Military Aircraft. “It’s very important in a cooperative military program where schedules are tight, and where we have a quick start that’s hard to manage,” he added.

In addition, the Airbus manager has argued, the Catalyst shows better technical performance while being cheaper.

However, even if it is produced in Europe, it begs the question of whether the Catalyst is affected by ITAR regulations. [International Traffic in Arms Regulations]that allows Washington to block the export of military equipment as soon as it contains components of US origin.

“The Catalyst is an engine […] entirely developed and manufactured in Europe, designed not to be subject to ITAR regulations, which allows to overcome additional requirements in terms of exportation”, underlined Airbus in its press release. And this, although some parts will be American. “We make sure of that with an audit,” Mr. Dumont said. Only that Washington should not change its regulations…

Such a question obviously did not arise for the Ardiden TP3, Safran having highlighted the fact that its turboprop was of wholly European design. In addition, the French engine manufacturer had been busy forging alliances with Italy’s Piaggio Aerospace, Spain’s ITP, and Germany’s MT-Propeller and ZF Luftfahrttechnik.

“In the engine [de l’EuroDrone]Safran offers a solution that is both efficient and competitive, which has matured within the framework of the European Clean Sky program. […] Safran is the only manufacturer to offer nations a truly European solution. And in the spirit of the European recovery plan, it would be surprising if European taxpayers’ money were used to fund a competing motorization solution, which is currently in the process of being certified with the US authorities,” said Franck Saudo, CEO of Safran. Helicopters Motor, in an interview Posted by The Tribunein June 2021.

And this one to insist: “Finally, the selection of the engine is naturally a matter of sovereignty for Europe, which must maintain its autonomy in motorization issues. The French authorities are clearly mobilized. It remains for me to wish that Airbus and the nations make the right decisions.”

As a reminder, this European program provides for the delivery of 60 drones [soit 20 systèmes] To Germany [21 appareils]in Italy [15]to France [12] already spain [12] for an amount of 7,100 million euros. With a length of 16 meters and a wingspan of 26 meters, the Eurodrone will be able to fly at a speed of 500 km/h, with a range of 40 hours.

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