Piaggio Aero has secured the first export order for its P.1HH Hammerhead unmanned air vehicle, following the United Arab Emirates’ decision to acquire eight of the type.
The P180 Avanti II twin-pusher-derived UAV will be provided to the nation under a €316 million ($347 million) deal signed between Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investments and the UAE government, Piaggio said on 8 March.
Hammerhead is nearing the end of its development phase, with Piaggio collaborating with fellow Italian company Finmeccanica Airborne and Space Systems, which is providing the mission control system, sensors, data link and ground control station (GCS).
The UAE order will include an electro-optical/infrared payload, radar and “advanced communications”, plus logistic support and training, Piaggio says.
A domestic order for the medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV came in February 2015 when the Italian air force announced plans to acquire six P.1HH air vehicles and three GCSs, deliveries of which are planned for 2016.
Hammerhead competes with platforms such as the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Predator family of MALE UAVs, and the Israel Aerospace Industries Heron and Elbit Systems Hermes 900 aircraft.
The UAE has also ordered the Predator XP UAV, an export variant of the ubiquitous MQ-1 Predator used by the US armed forces and a number of other militaries, including Italy.
The XP variant is designed to be a surveillance-only system, and does not have the capacity to carry weaponry. While Piaggio has not referred to arming the Hammerhead, the decision of the UAE to acquire two similar types might raise that possibility.
Piaggio is owned by Mubadala Development Company, an Abu Dhabi-based investment firm.