The French Air and Space Force seems open to funding a study of the Aarok drone, designed by the French manufacturer Turgis & Gaillard. Ukraine has also shown interest, with Antonov reportedly signing a contract to produce its own version of the drone under license.
Turgis & Gaillard started the development of the Aarok in 2020. In June 2023, the drone was unveiled to the public, with the first prototype presented during the Paris Air Show 2023 in Le Bourget.
The Aarok is a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned combat aerial vehicle, with a 22-meter wingspan, 14 meters in length, and a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 5.5 tons, including a 1.5-ton payload. It can stay airborne for over 24 hours and be operated through a satellite communications datalink.
It features six hardpoints under its wings and is marketed to conduct multiple missions such as ground strikes, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), and even maritime surveillance.
The Aarok armed drone at the Paris Air Show 2023 (Credit: AeroTime)
A French alternative to the Reaper?
As such, the Aarok is similar in size, performance, and application to the US-made MQ-9 Reaper, also in service with the French Air and Space Force. It is also lighter and would likely be cheaper than the European MALE, also known as the Eurodrone.
Launched in 2015, the European Remotely Piloted Aircraft System drone project brought together France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Airbus is the development leader, with French Dassault Aviation and Italy’s Leonardo as partners. The Eurodrone aims to carry 2.3 tons of payload, with a MTOW of around 11 tons.
Germany was expecting its first Eurodrone by 2027, and France a year later. However, the program was stalled following disagreements about the price of the drone, with some concerned that a MALE drone could hardly enter today’s market if it was more expensive than its competitors, especially the US-built General…