France is wondering what to do about its next high-end UAV buy. They bought mini-UAVs off the shelf, but turned to a build-in-partnership approach for their current set of Predator-class Medium Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) machines. That sacrificed some fielding speed and cost more, in order to build the industrial capabilities of key French firms. Unfortunately, their Harfang/ SIDM IUAV Program to field an IAI Heron derivative hit some snags. Harfangs have been very useful in several conflicts now, but the fleet isn’t keeping up with France’s growing land and naval needs. Which leads to the question: what’s next?
The answers to that question remain unclear, several years after French efforts began. What is becoming clear is that France needs UAVs of this type. By mid-2013 a request for MQ-9s came. Will it be more than a stopgap?