Selex Galileo targets UK Falco UAV flights, deal with Libya

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Selex Galileo wants to be flying its Falco unmanned air vehicle in the UK by the end of this year, and to also be in negotiations for a Libyan order for dozens of aircraft.

The company has set a July target for the arrival of two Falcos at the West Wales airport/ParcAberporth UAV flight-test centre, and certification by the UK Civil Aviation Authority to operate the type from the site parallels ongoing efforts in Italy to certificate the UAV for use in restricted military airspace.

The proposed deal with Libya is expected to be negotiated in detail once the Italian parliament has ratified an agreement with the north African country. An agreement would involve a yet-to-be determined degree of local production, and orders for possibly up to 50 Falcos to patrol Libya's southern border.

If approved, the deal could reflect an existing arrangement with an undisclosed customer - known to be Pakistan, where five systems consisting of 25 Falcos including spare flight units and ground control stations have been sold. Two systems are now in service, with another two having been delivered and the fifth's final assembly taking place in-country.

"We cannot [name] the customer," says Selex's group marketing director Gianpiero Lorandi.

Selex Galileo is, meanwhile, also offering the Falco Evolution (Evo), a retrofit designed to meet the Italian army's requirements. Featuring longer booms and a 14m (45.9ft) wing span almost double that of the standard design, the Evo package increases the UAV's payload capability from 70kg (154lb) to 120kg. First flight is expected in the second quarter of 2010, but there are no plans to fly the Evo at ParcAberporth.

The company is not going to weaponise the Falco. While the UAV has hardpoints for external fuel tanks and Selex knows that the Lockheed Martin/Raytheon Javelin and Thales lightweight multirole missile designs could be fitted to the platform, it is waiting for a lead from the Italian government.

Selex is already flight-testing the Alpi Aviation Strix C small flying wing UAV at ParcAberporth, through its collaboration with the northern Italian company.