France mulls partnerships on military drones: defense minister

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 10, 2012 3:39 PM
France mulls partnerships on military drones: defense minister

BREST, France (Reuters) - France, which had favored a joint project with Britain to build military drones under the previous government, is looking at partnerships with other countries, Defense Minister Jean-Yves said on Monday, as he criticized the cost and effectiveness of the project with Britain.

Le Drian previously said the new Socialist government would reach a decision before July 14 on the next-generation medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) drone, but on Monday he said talks with other countries were taking time.

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy had pushed France's Dassault Aviation and Britain's BAE Systems' to build their own drone as part of a defense accord between the two countries.

"Regarding the MALE drone...I have major reservations about the project on which we were originally embarked, both in terms of cost and efficiency," Le Drian said at a defense event in Brittany.

"I am considering a solution, and if it's taking a bit of time, it's because we would not be alone, that means with other countries."

Le Drian added that France remained committed to the A400M military transporter being built by EADS' Airbus unit, which was recently hit by fresh delays. The country has ordered 50 of the aircraft.

(Reporting by Cyril Altmeyer; Writing by James Regan; Editing by Leslie Adler)