The Dassault nEUROn is an Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) technology demonstrator intended to provide participating European powers with a viable, long-term UCAV weapons-capable solution. While primarily headed by the French concern (Dassault), the nEUROn program is a joint European venture that includes the likes of Saab AB of Sweden, Alenia Aeronautica of Italy, EADS CASA of Spain, EAB of Greece, RUAG of Switzerland, Thales of France, and EADS France. Dassault will be responsible for final assembly of the aircraft as well as in-flight testing while the base design, avionics and fuel system are being developed by Saab. The weapons suite will be handled by Alenia Aeronautica while the communications system will be provided for by EADS CASA and Thales.
The nEUROn was originally born out of a larger, stealth-minded, unmanned, nuclear-capable, twin-engine bomber concept by Dassault until the product was scaled down in size and scope to a single-engine technology demonstrator design with more conventional weapons delivery in mind (following increased European participation). The data garnered from program will be utilized to produce a viable end-product solution for serial manufacture - be it a UCAV or full-sized manned aircraft of the future. Due to the fact that many of the participating nations do not expect to procure full-scale manned aircraft for the next several decades, the UCAV program will pave the way for future partnerships and supply much-needed experience in the joint design, development and manufacture of a single aircraft system of European origin. As such, the long-term benefits of the program are obvious.
Outwardly, the Dassault nEUROn has been given a conventional delta-winged shape with all protrusions managed along the upper wing surfaces, leaving the fuselage and wing undersides as flat and featureless as possible. There is a single engine installation at the center-top of the design with a trapezoidal air intake to aspirate the powerplant, which exhausts at the rear through a specially-designed radar-reducing assembly. The fuselage and wings are area blended into a single undisturbed surface for additional stealth qualities and there are no vertical tail surfaces - essentially making the nEUROn a "flying wing" design. The undercarriage will be fully retractable into the fuselage underside (and of the conventional tricycle arrangement) while the intended weapons bay will be internally held to further promote stealth capabilities.
Dimensionally, the nEUROn has been given a running length of 31 feet with a wingspan of 41 feet, putting it on par with a full-sized manned aircraft design or similar UCAV product such as the Lockheed RQ-170 "Sentinel". It sits empty at 4,900 kilograms and displaces at 7,000 kilograms under a full mission load while power will be derived from a single Rolls-Royce-Turbomeca Adour / SNECMA M88 turbofan engine centrally-located in the fuselage. Maximum speed is estimated at just over 600 miles per hour with a service ceiling expected to reach 46,000 feet. The flight controls and weapons deliverywill be designed will full autonomy in mind, human interaction being held as backup should the need arise.
Flight testing of the nEUROn was scheduled for 2012. The program has been ongoing since 1999 in which Dassault became the first European power to test-flight a "stealth" UCAV.