SOFINS 2023: Some more info on the French Colibri loitering munitions programme

Paolo Valpolini

On 20 March 2023 the French Defence Innovation Agency (AID) announced the selection of two consortia of companies as part of the COLIBRI call for projects. This was launched in May 2022 by the AID and the General Armaments Directorate (DGA) with the aim of providing in the shortest possible time remotely operated ammunition with a range of 5 km fully designed and produced in France to national armed forces.

The first solution selected as part of the COLIBRI call for projects, proposed by MBDA and Novadem, is understood being based on a rotary wing design, however both companies are reluctant to provide any further detail at this stage.

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« The warhead is being developed by Nexter Arrowtech »

The second team is made of Nexter and an undisclosed UAS-expert partner company. At SOFINS Nexter provided a few information on the warhead, which is being developed by Nexter Arrowtech in Bourges. This comes as a 40 mm grenade warhead with a controlled fragmentation effect, a series of balls being present in the outer part of the body. This might however be only the first of a family of warheads, to be used according to the mission, and to be developed exploiting the Arrowtech know-how As for the UAS segment, this is a fixed wing solution.

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Comparing the image at the Nexter stand with UAS exhibited at SOFINS it was definitely not difficult to identify the UX11 drone as the basis on which the future weapon system will be developed. Born for photogrammetric purposes, the all-wing drone designed and produced by Delair has a 1.1 meters wingspan and is propulsed by a two-blade pushing propeller activated by an electric motor located at the rear of the wing. Its weight, payload included, is 1.5 kg, it has an endurance of 80 minutes, and a cruise speed of 54 km/h. Ready in 5 minutes, the UX11 can land within a 5 meters CEP and can take-off at a 5,000 meters altitude, flying up to 6,000 meters, an important feature for troops operating in the high mountains. All data provided pertain to the UK11IR model, therefore data for the UX11 loaded with the Nexter warhead might slightly differ. Wings are made of polystyrene, which allows keeping price under control, the aim being to field a munition with surgical accuracy at a fraction of the cost of existing guided weapons. According to information obtained by EDR On-Line the demonstration of this solution is scheduled for March/April 2024.

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Photos by Paolo Valpolini