15 Jul 15. USAF unveils UAV operator retention plan. Key Points:
* The USAF will offer a USD15,000 per month retention bonus to UAV operators beginning in FY 2016
* The move is part of a larger plan to bolster the UAV enterprise after multiple ‘surges’ overtaxed it
The US Air Force (USAF) plans to begin offering a new retention bonus to unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operators who commit to remaining in the service for at least five years beginning in fiscal year 2016, among other measures it is taking to bolster the UAV enterprise, the service’s senior civilian official revealed on 15 July.
“These pilots and sensor operators are under tremendous stress,” said USAF secretary Deborah Lee James at a luncheon sponsored by the National Aeronautic Association. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
14 Jul 15. EDA being kept out of European MALE UAV initiative. Key Points:
* The three nations collaborating on a European MALE UAV are keeping the EDA’s involvement in the project to a minimum
* This has raised concerns of whether, without EDA involvement, the project may descend into an ineffective and costly battle for industrial workshare
France, Germany, and Italy are keeping the European Defence Agency (EDA) well away from their collaborative unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programme, despite it originally being touted in 2013 as an “EU flagship project”, according to EU and industry observers.
The three countries are seeking to develop a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV. However, seeking to minimise EDA involvement in the project could raise the risk of a traditional battle for industrial share-out and inflated costs, they said.
“We defined the MALE’s common staff target in 2013 and, normally, that should have led to [an EDA] common staff requirement – the business case. But the countries opted for a different path: to go more quickly to the definition phase, arguing that a lot of work had already been done,” an EDA official told a closed briefing of EU and industry officials on 14 July, which IHS Jane’s attended.
“Each of the three main companies that would work on the MALE [Airbus, Dassault, and Alenia Aermacchi] has its own idea about the engine, for example. You need to get them together, but the EDA has had a difficult task doing this. The companies don’t want to address this topic with us,” the official said.
France, Germany, and Italy signed a declaration of intent on 18 May to develop the MALE, announcing they would start a two-year “definition phase” study. Worth around EUR60m (USD66m), the study has yet to be launched but is supposed to lead to a EUR1bn development phase, with the goal of getting the MALE into the air by 2025.
Only 32 MALEs are currently operated by the EDA’s 27 member states (all EU countries except Denmark). “Clearly, this is not enough for our militaries,” said the EDA official. “The demand is there but there are only two options: either buy off-the-shelf from the US or Israel, or develop a European system.” However, officials warn that unless the three countries allow the workload to “clearly” spread beyond their own national supply chains, they will not have much of a market.
“Our experience with large EU-funded civil research projects and PPPs [public-private partnerships] shows that it is best to let industry sort this out on its own, with little interference from governments,” a European Commission official told the meeting.
The EDA official agreed. “The challenge is to how to involve other member states and to identify the workload that could be given to their industry without producing the usual illogical industrial scheme that skews a project’s whole cost. There can be no duplicate work or industry players who do not provide the best technologies. An EU country must not be allowed to come to the table and say, ‘I want the money to go to this and that player.’ That will not work.”
Indeed, if costs shoot up, the three countries will lose civil customers for the surveillance platform,