France is to buy two American Reaper surveillance drones to be deployed in the war in Mali before the end of this year, announces Libération.

The daily, which points out that France is planning to acquire 12 surveillance drones over the next few years, explains that —

Above and beyond the acquisition of the two Reapers, more of these aircraft will have to be bought in the medium term. [...] France especially wants its assembly lines to produce the drone of the future, a kind of armed Rafale without a pilot, between now and 2035. “In a collaborative programme with the British, we have both invested €20m,” says the Ministry of Defence. Doubtless this one of the final opportunities to avoid definitive dependence on the American ally.

Libération notes that French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drien, has spoken of “possible European collaboration” and is hoping to “bring the British and the Germans, ‘who have similar needs’, into the loop.” However, “this process appears to be deadlocked,” in the wake of a recent move by Le Drien’s German counterpart, Thomas de Maizière.

He cancelled the purchase of four Euro Hawk drones, built by EADS and American company Northrop Grumman. His decision was announced in the wake of revelations in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that “the Ministry of Defence had continued with the EuroHawk programme, whose costs ran to several billion euros, even though it was fully aware that it would not be authorised to use the aircraft in German and European airspace,” because of its lack of an anti-collision system.

“The embarrassing truth does not only concern the current Minister of Defence,” remarks FAZ. But also —

… his predecessors Guttenberg (CSU), Jung (CDU) and Struck (SPD). All of whom failed to pose the crucial question: How can a drone be authorised to fly in civil airspace, if it is not equipped with reliable anti-collision system?