Ukraine to produce French Aarok Medium Altitude Long Endurance drone

According to Michel Cabirol in La Tribune on October 2, 2023, French company Turgis & Gaillard entered into an agreement with Ukrainian company Antonov to produce its Aarok drone in Ukraine. The agreement was formalized during a visit by France's Minister of the Armed Forces, Sébastien Lecornu, to Kyiv. The Aarok drone, unveiled at the Paris Air Show 2023, has been classified as a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drone and is expected to be deployed in Ukraine in the near future.

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Aarok Ukraine 925  Its armament capacity allows the French Aarok drone to carry up to 1,497 kg of weapons. (Picture source: Turgis & Gaillard)

Fanny Turgis and Patrick Gaillard, CEOs of the French company, have disclosed that their collaboration with Antonov aims to facilitate the local production of the Aarok drone based on its existing design. It's worth noting that the Ukrainian industrial player played a significant role in selecting the drone's design, which was unveiled in June.

However, several key details concerning the industrial and operational aspects of the partnership between Turgis & Gaillard and Antonov are yet to be determined. Patrick Gaillard highlighted the need to establish the location of the assembly site and select the French and Ukrainian equipment to be incorporated into the drone. One confirmed aspect is that the Aarok drones manufactured by Antonov will be exclusively used by the Ukrainian armed forces, as confirmed by Fanny Turgis.

What distinguishes the Aarok drone is its size and capabilities when compared to the U.S.-made MQ-9A Reaper. With a length of 14 meters, a wingspan of 22 meters, and a maximum take-off weight of 5.5 tonnes, the Aarok surpasses the Reaper, which measures 11 meters in length, has a 20-meter wingspan, and weighs 4.5 tonnes.

The Aarok, powered by an aircraft turbine engine, can reach speeds of up to 250 knots (463 km/h) and has an endurance of 30 hours at an altitude of 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). Its reinforced landing gear allows it to land on unprepared terrains, expanding its operational capabilities. An interesting feature of the Aarok is its armament capacity, with a maximum payload of 2,722 kg, allowing it to carry up to 1,497 kg of weapons.

The versatility of the Aarok extends to a wide range of activities, including intelligence gathering, surveillance, and military reconnaissance. Additionally, its payload customization capabilities make it suitable for tasks such as environmental monitoring, infrastructure inspections, and search and rescue operations.

In addition to Turgis & Gaillard's partnership with Antonov, several other French industrial players have secured contracts to supply arms and equipment to Ukraine. These contracts total 15, in addition to a cooperation agreement between the French Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) and its Ukrainian counterpart. Nexter, a French subsidiary of the Franco-German group KNDS, will provide six additional Caesar 6x6 self-propelled howitzers, and Arquus has secured a contract for maintaining and producing certain parts of armored vehicles. CEFA will also deliver eight heavy SDZ demining robots and eight EFA self-propelled pontoon bridges for river crossings.