European aeronautical manufacturers Dassault, EADS and Finmeccanica announced in a statement released Sunday their readiness to launch a program to build observation and medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) strategic exploration drones.

The three firms said they share "a single vision" regarding the current situation of drones in Europe, adding that the goal of the program is to "foster the development of high technologies and contribute to sustaining key competencies and jobs within Europe" and end reliance on U.S. and Israeli unmanned aircraft.

The trio also said that a joint program of this kind "would support the capability needs of European armed forces while optimizing the difficult budgetary situation through pooling of research and development funding. European sovereignty and independence in the management of information and intelligence would be guaranteed."

They said that the companies to be most heavily involved in the drone program would be EADS Cassidian, Dassault Aviation and Finmeccanica Alenia Aermacchi.

The drone manufacture program - which has been exclusively dominated by Israeli and U.S. unmanned aircraft - would be aimed at giving Europe a way to acquire drone surveillance data without it first passing through either U.S. or Israeli hands.

The announcement comes just days after French authorities declared that they have a plan to progressively incorporate drones into their air force with the aim of replacing manned combat aircraft with these uncrewed vehicles by 2030.

Germany has been using drones on a lease basis on reconnaissance missions in Afghanistan since 2010. EFE