The European designed nEUROn Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) demonstrator successfully completed its maiden flight on December 1, 2012. The flight took place at Dassault Aviation’s flight test base in Istres in southern France and marks a milestone for the nEUROn program that was launched in 2005 by the French Defense Procurement Agency (DGA) that involves the collaboration of six European countries.

Measuring 9.2 m (30 ft) long and boasting a wingspan of 12.5 m (41 ft), the stealth technology demonstrator is the first large size stealth platform designed in Europe. It has an empty weight of 5 tons (4.5 tonnes) and a maximum weight of 7 tons (6.3 tonnes). Powered by a Rolls-Royce Turbomeca “Adour” engine, the nEUROn can fly for three hours and reach a maximum speed of Mach 0.8.

With the aim of the program to develop expertise in advanced aeronautics amongst the participating countries and industries, the aircraft itself isn’t intended for serial production, but will be used to test various technologies for future UAVs and UCAVs, including Saab’s next-generation Gripen.

France’s Dassault Aviation is serving as the nEUROn program’s prime contractor, with involvement from Alenia Aermacchi (Italy), Saab (Sweden), EADS-CASA (Spain), Hellenic Aerospace Industry (Greece), RUAG (Switzerland), and Thales (France).

Testing in France will continue until 2014, when it will be transferred to Vidsel in Sweden for a series of operational trials. It will then move onto Italy’s Perdadesfogu range for further testing focused on firing and stealth capabilities.

Sources: Saab, Dassault Aviation