On May 24, 2018, Piaggio Aerospace, a leading Italian aircraft manufacturer active in the business aviation and defense and security sectors, announced the successful accomplishment of the first flight test program, with its remotely piloted P.1HH HammerHead aircraft, aimed at experimenting the satellite control of a MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) system, designed for long endurance flights at medium altitudes.
The flight test program was performed in partnership with Telespazio, the joint venture between Leonardo (67%) and Thales (33%), which provided the satellite technology. The purpose of the program was to integrate the technologies that allow flying beyond the line of sight (BRLOS, Beyond Radio Line Of Sight) and to assess their performance.
The experimental campaign was carried out at Birgi Airport in Trapani by a team of experts by Piaggio Aerospace and Telespazio, who verified on the ground the efficiency of the satellite technology in several areas of application. Tests were performed by using the satellite Athena-Fidus, which is managed by the Fucino Space Centre of Telespazio. The satellite allowed both to communicate to the P.1HH the necessary information for the command and control of the aircraft, and also to transmit from the aircraft to the ground the on-board sensors’ data acquired during the flight, fully simulating surveillance missions in the BRLOS mode.
Fabio Guida, Chief Technology Officer of Piaggio Aerospace, remarked: «Our aircraft guaranteed the success of a key test at European level for the future development of the defense and security sector, that will increasingly rely upon remotely piloted systems of this class. The outstanding outcome is the evidence of Piaggio Aerospace’s commitment to the continuous development of the P.1HH HammerHead program, which will see the first deliveries this year. The platform represents the only European MALE product and is an uncontested excellence within the industry».
The Italian Air Force will be the launch customer of the P.1HH HammerHead Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), a state-of-the-art multipurpose UAS, designed and developed by Piaggio Aerospace. This decision was announced at IDEX 2015 in Abu Dhabi, in presence of the Italian Air Force Chief, Lt. Gen. Pasquale Preziosa. Piaggio Aerospace will deliver three UAS systems – 6 air vehicles and 3 ground control stations – complete with Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) configuration to the Italian Air Force in early 2016.
Carlo Logli, CEO of Piaggio Aerospace, said: «We are truly delighted about this decision. It confirms the strong partnership we have with the Italian Air Force and showcases the P.1HH as one of the most advanced systems to enter the market. We are grateful for the continued support of our partner Finmeccanica-Selex ES, the Italian Ministry of Defence, our shareholders and the valuable teamwork with the Italian hi-tech industry». The P.1HH platform is a derivative of the very successful Piaggio Aerospace P.180, the fastest twin turboprop aircraft in the world, with a proven service record of over 20 years and more than 800,000 flight hours.
The P.1HH HammerHead is designed with a variety of operational capabilities that can be tailored to specific customer requirements, enabling the UAS to perform a wide range of ISR missions. Developed in partnership with Finmeccanica-Selex ES, the P.1HH HammerHead UAS is currently going through a comprehensive development and certification flight test campaign, conducted at the Trapani Birgi Italian Air Force base.
THE P.1HH HammerHead UAS
The Piaggio Aerospace P.1HH HammerHead is a new, state-of-the-art Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) designed for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions whose combination of performance and operational characteristics is at the very top end of the UAS MALE category. An unmatched combination of range, wide operative speeds, fast climb gradient, high operative ceiling and variety of payloads, provides end-users with a powerful yet flexible Defense System that outperforms other Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Systems, identifying the P.1HH HammerHead as a Super MALE UAS.
P.1HH HammerHead, is suited for a wide range of ISR, Defense and Security missions, and defines an unsurpassed mission role flexibility and sets a new frontier of CONcept of OPerationS (CONOPS) for Defense. The P.1HH HammerHead Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is derived from the successful Piaggio Aerospace P.180 Avanti II business aviation aircraft, the fastest twin turboprop aircraft in the world with a proven, uneventful, service record of more than 20 years and 800,000 flight hours.
The design of the P.1HH HammerHead aims at being a unique ISR platform, able to climb up to 45,000 feet/13,716 m, loitering quietly at low speed (135 KTAS/155 mph/250 km/h) for an endurance of up to 16 flight hours and dashing at very high speed (up to 395 KTAS/454 mph/731 km/h) to target. Its capabilities include being able to host several payload combinations and to perform multiple missions: aerial, land, coastal, maritime and offshore security, COMINT/ELINT (COMmunications INTelligence/ELectronic INTelligence), electronic warfare as well as other roles.
Based on the P.180 Avanti II proven architecture and technologies (tested and certified for passenger transportation) and, on the outstanding experience and capability of Selex ES in the mission management systems for manned/unmanned ISR, P.1HH HammerHead is designed to be an all-weather aircraft with twin turboprop propulsion providing maximum safety, operational reliability and the lowest incident rate in its category.
The P.1HH HammerHead design is fully compliant with STANAG USAR 4671 (Standardization Agreement UAV Systems Airworthiness Requirements 4671) standards to fly in both restricted and unrestricted flight areas, according to the relevant authorities’ permission.
The UAV Platform
The P.1HH HammerHead UAV platform has an aerodynamic configuration largely similar to P.180 Avanti II. This is very versatile thanks to its unique patented 3 Lifting Surfaces Configuration (3 LSC) and high aspect ratio laminar wings, adapted for the P.1HH design by moderately increasing the wing span to sustain larger vehicle masses and allocating a quick detachable joint to the outer wings for rapid aerial deployment of the UAS in remote areas. Being based on a certified Mach 0.70 aircraft, P.1HH HammerHead is the fastest MALE.
The P.1HH HammerHead power plant has two, highly reliable Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66B turbine engines integrated with low noise 5 blade scimitar propellers. The Power Plant is controlled by two Engine Interface Units that receive commands from the Flight Control Computer (FCC) to drive the turbine and the propeller governors while managing engine and propeller data. A large upper fuselage tank, supported by a robust yet efficient carry through beam, is integrated to provide the required fuel quantity for long range and endurance.
A smart fuel system is designed to control and minimize the movement of the aircraft center of gravity for maximum operational flexibility in a wide range of mission payloads. The triple redundant 28VDC electrical generation and distribution system supplies energy for all aircraft functions with adequate operational reserve through the envelope, and fully satisfies large power demands from a variety of power consuming payloads. P.1HH HammerHead inherits proven Piaggio Aerospace P.180 aircraft general systems, e.g.: Anti Ice, with hot air on main wing, electrical on forward wing and pneumatic boots on the engine nacelle inlet. It also has a hydraulic dual pressure system for landing gear extensions/retraction and brake activation, plus other ancillary systems like fire extinguishing for the engine nacelle area. These subsystems are all commanded by the Vector Control & Management System (VCMS), via fail-safe Remote Interface Units.
The large but low drag P.180 aircraft fuselage provides capability for aerodynamically effective payload arrangements, with plenty of available volume from the variety of Line Replaceable Unit’s (LRU’s) equipment, sensors and communication equipment comfortably located inside the fuselage.
The UAV Brain
P.1HH HammerHead features a technologically advanced Vehicle Control & Management System (VCMS) that when combined with the advanced Mission Management System (MMS) manages the UAV and its mission specific equipment.
The VCMS, commanded from the Ground Control Station (GCS) via an airborne datalink system, conducts the vehicle commanding aerodynamic control surfaces and manages on-board equipment with a triple redundant Flight Control Computer (FCC) system and multiple remote multi-lane Servo Interface Units (SIU), developed to achieve the required level of safety and mission reliability.
Position, attitude and air data are guaranteed by triple redundant Inertial Sensors (INS) and Air Data Probes (ADS), mounted in the VCMS. P.1HH HammerHead VCMS features an Automatic Take-Off and Landing (ATOL) system served with dual redundant external sensors for required reliability and safety.
All VCMS LRU’s are installed inside the large volume fuselage, in a very protected optimized operative environment, in a specific lay-out that provides zonal separation and temperature analysis to achieve a state of the art operative temperature range, highest VCMS reliability and finally, P.1HH HammerHead safety. Very easy access is provided through the large entry door and a multitude of access doors for the best maintainability within the segment.
Ground Control Station & Datalink System
An advanced Ground Control Station (GCS) is the P.1HH HammerHead UAS’s command & control center. The GCS is located in an autonomous shelter that hosts crew, equipment and consoles necessary to manage three UAVs (two operational, one in transfer mode) and their related Payloads.
The Crew processes functions necessary to execute tactical unmanned missions and stand-off surveillance unmanned missions, remotely commanding and controlling through VCMS and MMS the on-board surveillance system with an advanced human/machine interface integrating display and control system. The GCS is provided with multiple Ground Data Terminals (GDT) that when coupled with the associated Air Data Terminals (ADT) on the vehicles provide Line Of Sight (LOS) and Beyond Line Of Sight (BLOS) Link for Vehicle and Payload Control.
The Links System allows LOS & BLOS air vehicle command & control and payload digital encrypted data transmission via redundant, multi-frequency, high bandwidth RF links and via Ku/Ka Band Satellite Communications (SATCOM).
Mission data is eventually relayed to the headquarters either via ground communication systems or eventually with the same LOS/BLOS data link.
VCMS/GCS is developed and supplied by Selex ES thanks to their long experience in Avionics for many different platforms and Unmanned Aerial System.
Mission Management System
The P.1HH HammerHead UAS Mission Management System is based on Selex ES skyISTAR innovative technology, which redefines the concept of patrolling and ISR missions, to encompass threats that range from terrorist attacks to illegal immigration, as well as protection of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), infrastructures and critical sites.
The on board airborne Mission Management System (MMS) manages sensors, video and data, communications, and ISR functions and it is capable of recording video and mission data.
The MMS is modular and reconfigurable with effective and fully integrated open system architecture possessing significant growth capability.
Sensor fusion technology, data management and exploitation features of skyISTAR enable highly effective border control, wide area surveillance, targeted surveillance environmental and disaster control missions.
Main Competitive Characteristics
Capable to perform ISR – COMINT/ELINT – SIGINT missions
Twin turboprop, all weather, proven system architecture and technologies
Vehicle Control Management System compliant with STANAG USAR 4671 standards with Automatic Take Off and Landing
Full redundancy – Safety requirements Cat. Event Prob. 10-6 FH, SW Critical functions DO178B level B
System is ground/sea/air transportable (removable wings)
24 hours deployment capability
LOS/BLOS wide narrow band Datalink
Unpaired combination of performances for range and operational speed
Operational Ceiling: 45,000 feet/13,716 m
MMO (Mach Max Operating): 0.70 Mach
Climb to 35,000 feet/10,668 m in 20 minutes at maximum weight
Loiter at 135 KTAS/155 mph/250 km/h (1 to 3 NM/1.8 to 5.5 km turning radius)
Maximum speed up to 395 KTAS/454 mph/731 km/h
Endurance: 16 hours plus, with ISR payload
Range: up to 4,400 NM/8,149 km
Span: 15.600 m/51.18 feet
Length: 14.408 m/47.27 feet
Height: 3.980 m/13.05 feet
Wing: 18.00 m2/193.75 feet2
Horizontal Tail: 3.834 m2/41.27 feet2
Vertical Tail: 4.731 m2/50.92 feet2
Forward Wing (Exposed): 1.300 m2/13.99 feet2
Max Take Off Weight (MTOW): 6,146 kg/13,550 lbs
2 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66B, 850 sph/634 kW, ISA (International Standard Atmosphere), sea level
Hartzell five blade low noise propellers counter rotating
Selex ES SkyISTAR with
FLIR EO/IR StarSafire 380HD
Seaspray 7300 E Radar
Maximum speed: 395 KTAS/454 mph/731 km/h
Cruise speed: 320 KTAS/368 mph/592 km/h
Loiter speed: 135 KTAS/155 mph/250 km/h
Max range: 4,400 NM/8,149 km
Max endurance (500 lbs/227 kg payload): 16 hours
Endurance (500 lbs/227 kg payload) at 1,500 km from takeoff & landing base: 10.5 hours