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European stealth-combat test drone flies in France

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December 1, 2012 09:02 AM EST | AP


PARIS — A pan-European stealth combat drone demonstrator has taken its first test flight in southern France.

French defense company Dassault-Aviation is lead contractor on the "Neuron" project launched in 2005 involving firms from France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Greece and Switzerland to provide a test bed for developing future combat aircraft.

Its successful flight took place Saturday near Istres.

Program officials say the Neuron is not a prototype, but aims to help European countries explore stealth technology for possible use – years from now – in future drones or successors of fighters like the Eurofighter or France's Rafale. The program will also seek innovations like the release of air-to-surface weapons from an internal bay.

Many experts believe armed drones will play an increasing role in the future of air combat.