The drone, named Aarok, has a wingspan of 22 meters and a takeoff weight of approximately 5.5 tons, including a payload capacity of 1.5 tons. The company expects to conduct its first flight by the end of this year, with production readiness and service entry planned for mid-2025.
Developed in secrecy over two years in a hangar in Blois (Loir-et-Cher), the prototype was entirely self-funded by ETI Turgis & Gaillard. Patrick Gaillard, co-owner of the company, hopes to attract interest from the French military with their design. With the aforementioned specifications, Aarok ranks slightly above the American Reaper (of which France has acquired 12 units) and the future European Eurodrone.
The French Armed Forces still face challenges in terms of large UAV saturation. The implementation of Safran Patroller drones experienced a five-year delay, despite the machine being heavily based on the Stemme ASP S15 motor glider. Furthermore, the Patrollers are still not armed. On the other hand, the much larger (11 tons and 30 meters wingspan) Eurodrone, being developed under the leadership of Airbus, is expected to be ready by 2030 at best, with a high unit cost (currently estimated at EUR 114 million).
Meanwhile, France lacks affordable and mass-produced armed drones. Aarok aims to address this demand. To keep costs down, its creators opted for traditional aircraft features: a single propeller-driven engine, robust and widely spaced landing gear, and the ability to take off and land on unpaved runways measuring no more than 400-500 meters in length, positioned as close as possible to the theater of operations. The manufacturer does not provide the exact price of the production model but indicates that it would be “slightly higher” than the cost of the Turkish TB2 but significantly lower than that of the American Reaper.
The drone is equipped with six hardpoints, capable of carrying up to 1.5 tons of payload. This capacity allows for the carriage of four AASM precision-guided bombs and two Hellfire missiles. Of course, the aircraft can also be used for reconnaissance and surveillance missions. Its standard endurance is expected to be 24 hours, but in a clean configuration without armament, it could even reach 30 hours.
Aarok will have the capability to carry the Thales Searchmaster radar, the Euroflir electro-optical sensor, and Safran’s AASM precision-guided bombs. Regarding the engine, the manufacturer prefers the Safran Helicopter Engines Ardiden 3TP, which is still under development. However, if this engine is not available, it could be replaced with the engine selected for the Eurodrone, simplifying the operation of these UAVs within a single armed force.