Tests of the latest drone have begun in France, a smaller copy of which is planned to be assembled at the Antonov plant in Ukraine

In October 2023, it became known that France intends to manufacture the latest MALE Aarock unmanned aerial vehicle in Ukraine at Antonov’s facilities, the first presentation of which took place only last summer.
It was noted that France intends to produce a smaller version of this drone at our facilities.
But to be fair, we are talking about a rather large aircraft: The MALE Aarock has a declared maximum takeoff weight of 5.5 tons, a wingspan of 21 meters, and a payload of up to 1.5 tons.
It is important to note that MALE Aarock, according to its creators, is intended to be a carrier for the AASM Hammer family of guided bombs, which are already in use by the Ukrainian Defense Forces.
Almost half a year has passed, but so far there has been no news about the possible start of production of a smaller version of the French MALE Aarock at Ukrainian facilities.
Although last fall, the French Ministry of Defense announced its intention to have the first such drone for the Armed Forces take off in 2024.
At the same time, according to Opex360, the developer of MALE Aarock, the French Turgis & Gaillard company, says that in April it began the ground testing phase of this unmanned aerial vehicle.
At this time, the drone has already undergone the first test engine starts and the first test taxiing on the runway.

MALE Aarock test, April 2024, photo by Opex360

At present, it is expected that the first flight of the MALE Aarock will take place in the next few months.
Not only the French Ministry of Defense, but also CEMAAE (French Aerospace Forces) are currently showing interest in this aircraft.
The decision to award the contract and its parameters will be made based on the results of the tests.
There are already estimates that one MALE Aarock aircraft will cost from 5 to 10 million euros per unit, and such a UAV can hardly be called a mass-produced one.
But on the one hand, such a cost seems justified for a drone that, with a maximum takeoff weight of 5.5 tons, is equipped with a 1,500 horsepower turboprop engine and has a design flight duration of up to 24 hours.

Aarock UAV, photo by Turgis & Gaillard

On the other hand, the French Ministry of Defense itself sees the investment in Aarock’s MALE project not just as a purchase of a promising drone, but also as a tool for “sovereignizing” the European drone industry so that European armies do not need to buy UAVs from the United States.

Source defence-ua
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