April 26, 2018 / 2:53 PM / a month ago

REFILE-AIRSHOW-Europe seeks sovereignty with unveiling of MALE drone model

(Adds Airshow tag)

BERLIN, April 26 (Reuters) - Seeking to reduce Europe’s dependence on a market dominated by the U.S. and Israel, three European defence companies unveiled a first full-scale model of their planned Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) drone at the Berlin air show.

The companies - Airbus, Dassault Aviation and Leonardo - said on Thursday that the unveiling showed their commitment to the project to build a European version of an unmanned aerial system.

Large drones operated by European armed forces are mostly based on U.S. or Israeli designs.

“This is important for European sovereignty,” Benoit Dussaugey, Senior Executive Vice President, International at Dassault Aviation told reporters at the show.

The four participating nation in the MALE project are Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

The drone, with two turboprop engines, is planned to enter into service in the middle of next decade and will mainly focus on surveillance although a weaponised version is an option.

The companies said they hoped other countries outside of Europe would be interested in the drone.

“We believe it’s a very modern and competitive configuration and we expect there are export opportunities in the future,” Airbus Defence and Space CEO Dirk Hoke said.

France’s Thales, Italy’s Elettronica, Germany’s Hensoldt, and Spain’s Indra earlier this week said they would team up to offer intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance functions for the drone. (Reporting by Victoria Bryan Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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