Plans to build a new generation of "fighter drones" that can wage war by remote control are set to be agreed today by Britain and France. David Cameron and President Nicolas Sarkozy are preparing to put their recent tensions behind them to launch proposals for the pilotless stealth aircraft at a summit in Paris. In a second agreement, they will promise closer co-operation on civil nuclear power.
Western nations increasingly regard the deployment of drones to launch surgical strikes on targets as a way of keeping military casualties to a minimum.
Several senior al-Qa'ida figures have been killed by unmanned American drones flying over Pakistan, while British drone missions could begin within months over Afghanistan. Critics claim the aircraft can cause "collateral damage" among civilians and that the low risk to service personnel from their use can encourage countries to turn to military force rather than diplomacy.
But the two leaders are preparing to put any qualms to one side as they sign a letter of intent of cross-Channel cooperation on the project.
Under the plan, Britain's BAE and the French planemaker Dassault – rivals in the battle for sales of the present generation of fighter planes – will be asked to collaborate in the creation of a prototype of a Star Wars-type, ground-controlled "fighter drone" by 2020. Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy are expected to present the project as proof of continuing – or revived – Anglo-French friendship despite last year's rift over tighter fiscal discipline in the eurozone...