April 30, 2013
By Thomas A. Horne
As it turns out, Falcon jets aren’t the only aircraft being made by Dassault Aviation. On April 25, the company revealed that it’s developing an unmanned aircraft it calls the “nEUROn.” Although now in the prototype stage, Dassault said the drone is to be the first large stealth platform designed in Europe. First flight of the nEUROn was in December 2012 at Dassault’s test flight facility in Istres, France.
The all-composite aircraft is a cooperative effort involving Dassault, EADS, Switzerland’s RUAG, Sweden’s Saab, Spain’s CASA, and Italy’s Alenia manufacturing groups.
The stealthy, all-composite nEUROn has a wingspan of some 70 feet and is currently powered by a single a Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca Adour engine of 5,100 lbst. This is the same engine used in the 1960s SEPECAT Jaguar trainer/ground aircraft—an airplane jointly developed by the British Aircraft Corporation and Breguet Aviation, Dassault’s forerunner. A search is on for a more modern replacement engine.
With a wingspan of approximately 70 feet, the nEUROn has a wing planform that closely resembles that of the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter. Viewed from the side, it has the bulbous shapes reminiscent of the B-2 bomber.
Although operated remotely, the nEUROn at present does not use ground-based pilots to perform flight profiles. Instead, pre-programmed missions are entered into the drone’s software and the ship flies them autonomously. Dassault has a schedule for further enhancement to the nEUROn design, but it’s keeping mum. Journalists had but a few moments to see the few Powerpoint slides addressing the nEUROn.
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.
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