After the end of hostilities in WWII, France and Germany have become surprisingly close. The two nations are stalwart proponents of expanded European Union integration and are regularly referred to as the EU's "twin engine." But on the issue of unmanned aerial platform, the two simply cannot agree. So while France and its cohorts are developing the supersonic nEUROn, Germany is building the stealth Barracuda.
Development on the EADS Barracuda fully-autonomous, medium-altitude, long-range UAV began in 2003, and is backed by both Germany and Spain. France, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Greece, alternately, have funded the Dassault nEUROn, while the UK has independently forged ahead with the BAE Taranis. Despite crashing during a 2006 test flight, which grounded the project for nearly two years, the Barracuda has since successfully completed more than a dozen test flights.
Though details on the vehicle itself remain classified, we do know that the Barracuda is built from a mix of off the shelf components and custom hardware systems. Its entire fuselage—save for a pair of reinforcing wing spars—is composed of the same carbon fiber composite that covers the Eurofighter Typhoon. What's more, the 26-foot long, three-ton demonstrator does almost entirely away with hydraulics—aside from the landing gear, the UAV operates entirely on electronic actuators. And while it isn't as quick as the Taranis, the Barracuda reportedly packs a 14 kN Pratt & Whitney jet turbine capable of achieving mach .85 with a 20,000 foot service ceiling and an estimated 124 mile operational radius.
For the foreseeable future, the Barracuda will remain a developmental test bed for future Cassian UAV technologies with hopes of eventually developing a system that can operate in unsegregated airspace alongside manned and civilian aircraft. And with both the nEUROn and Taranis gunning for deployment by the end of the decade, the skies over Europe are going to get crowded. [Wiki - EADS - Image: EADS]