The demonstrator for a European combat drone, Neuron, has entered the definition phase of the technology program, the Délégation Générale pour l’Armement, France’s defense procurement agency, said in a June 12 statement.The 19-month definition stage is intended to freeze the design and determine the systems and interfaces for the technology demonstrator for a combat UAV. The Neuron program is budgeted at 130 million euros ($173.5 million).Feasibility studies conducted by industry over the last 15 months allowed the launch of the definition phase, said the DGA, the lead agency for the project.French company Dassault Aviation is the prime contractor. Other companies working on the feasibility phase were Italy’s Alenia Aeronautica, Sweden’s Saab, Spain’s EADS CASA, Greece’s Hellenic Aerospace Industries, Switzerland’s RUAG Aerospace and France’s Thales.The feasibility studies covered areas including stealth, flight control without fins, open modular avionics and development of internal weapon bays.On completion of the definition phase, the program enters development and assembly of the aircraft, which is due to fly in the first half of 2011.Flight tests, expected to last about 18 months, will take place in France, Sweden and Italy.The DGA on June 12 informed representatives of the procurement agencies of Greece, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland sitting on the Neuron program’s strategic board that the technology program has entered the definition phase.Work so far has allowed significant breakthroughs in the precise definition of the combat UAV’s external shape, manufacturing of stealth materials, avionics architecture and choice of an off-the-shelf fighter engine, the DGA said. The advances will help reduce risk in the program, which uses cutting-edge technology, it added.

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