The nEUROn is a completely unmanned drone, called a UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle). It features an innovative composite design, and differs from other European fighters by virtue of its internal weapons bay. This has several benefits, keeping the external structure both aerodynamic and allows for more precisely shaped surfaces.
The single-wing design of the nEUROn is reminiscent of the original ‘stealth bomber’ – the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk – and the shape and styling is governed by similar requirements, namely the avoidance of enemy radar signals.
It’s not just the machine itself that’s innovative either, with the design process proving just as unconventional. The countries involved in the creation of nEUROn – France, Italy, Greece, Sweden and Spain – have all been able to have an input, despite the geographical differences.
Dassault Aviation – the company leading the multi-national coalition claims: “The nEUROn is designed and developed within the frame of a completely integrated ‘Product Lifecycle Management’ environment, through a ‘virtual plateau’, allowing Dassault Aviation and its partners, located in the different countries, to simultaneously work together on the same design data base, independently from the location where the design activities are currently performed.”
The engines on the nEUROn are set to fire up for the first time this year, and according to Dassault, “These tests will address flight qualities, stealthiness, air-to-ground weapon firing from an internal bay, integration into a C4i environment as well as the insertion of uninhabited platform in airspace.”
Despite the potential the nEUROn offers, letting countries gather intelligence from enemy lines without having to put human life at risk, the drone will never make it past the test phase. Instead, nEUROn is just a test bed for technology and potential partnerships.
One of the aims of the nEUROn project is “to develop the technologies critical to tomorrow’s combat aircraft,” and if it turns out to be successful, we could see an entirely reinvigorated European aerospace industry, picking up where the Eurofighter left off, and taking on the likes of Lockheed and Boeing in the US.