New designs, yet to fly, have small radar cross-sections and low infrared signatures

Meteor, the Italian aerial target and unmanned air vehicle (UAV) manufacturer, has unveiled two new UAVs: the Nibbio, based on the Mirach 100/5 target; and the medium altitude/endurance Falco, developed from the Mirach 26.

The Nibbio has been developed after NATOanalysis of UAV use during OperationAllied Force in 1999 against Yugoslavia and more recently in Afghanistan underlined the high attrition rate - 10 to 100 times higher than manned aircraft - of slow flying, low and medium altitude UAVs, says Meteor.

Galileo Avionica/Finmeccanica-owned Meteor says Nibbio would fly 14 months after contract signing. Nibbio will have a 0.1m2 (1.1ft2) radar cross-section (RCS), fly at Mach 0.86 and between 15ft (5m) and 40,000ft, be capable of manoeuvring at 6g and carry a 60kg payload.

The system is intended for electronic surveillance missions, using the 0.6-18GHz Elettronica ALR-733 payload. The Italian army is showing interest in this version. Alternatively Nibbio can carry a synthetic aperture radar (SAR)or be equipped with an infrared line-scanner and television sensor, or a digital stabilised camera. Data will be stored onboard or downloaded to a ground station.


The Italian air force is considering Nibbio for electronic warfare, carrying a jamming system and active countermeasures. Launch would be from a zero-length ramp or an aircraft, fixed- or rotary-wing.

The Falco retains the Mirach 26's twin-boom configuration, but has a new cranked wing and carbonfibre airframe. The company predicts a 0.4m2 RCS while the 48kW (65hp) diesel engine has a reduced IR and acoustic signatures. The three-bladed variable pitch propeller is likely to be contained in an annular duct. First flight is due by year-end.

Take-off will be with a catapult or conventionally on wheeled undercarriage. The system will offer 14h endurance and operate at 9,800-16,400ft. Payloads would be similar to the Nibbio, but include a laser rangefinder. Falco will also be equipped with underwing towed decoys and a radar warning system.

Source: Flight International