Tag Archives: RPAS

Maiden Flight

Leonardo has announced the maiden flight of its new Falco Xplorer drone aircraft. Falco Xplorer S/N0001 took off from Trapani Air Force base on January 15, cruised over the Gulf of Trapani in a dedicated fly zone, for around 60 minutes and then returned to base, landing safely. The maiden flight is a significant milestone which has been achieved through technical and engineering support, at the test flight planning stages and with other related activities, by the Italian Air Force Test Flight Centre. The Remotely-Piloted Air System (RPAS), which combines endurance of over 24 hours with a max payload of 350 kg/772 lbs., will now embark on a series of flight campaigns which will assess the aircraft’s full range of capabilities including its integrated sensor system. These campaigns will also certify the Falco Xplorer against NATO’s airworthiness Standardization Agreement (STANAG) 4671, dramatically expanding the territory over which it can operate.

The new Remotely-Piloted Air System (RPAS), the largest Leonardo has ever built, has successfully undergone its first test flight

The Falco Xplorer was first unveiled at last year’s Paris Air Show. It has been designed to offer persistent, multi-sensor strategic surveillance to military and civil customers and can be procured as either an integrated system or as a fully-managed information-superiority service, flown and operated by Leonardo. With a maximum take-off weight of 1.3 tons and an operating ceiling above 24,000 feet/7,315 meters, the aircraft is an affordable and potent option for Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR).

Previous Falco variants have been chosen by the United Nations and Frontex, the European border and coastguard agency. The Falco Xplorer design draws on feedback from these and other Falco customers. It features a powerful sensor suite, which includes the Company’s Gabbiano T-80 multi-mode surveillance radar, its SAGE electronic intelligence system, an automatic identification system for maritime missions and an Electro-Optical (EO) turret. An optional hyperspectral sensor will allow the Falco Xplorer to monitor pollution and agricultural development. The native satellite link capability allows for beyond-line-of-sight operations, while its open system architecture means that third-party sensors can be easily integrated. Not subject to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) restrictions and meeting the criteria for Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) class II, Falco Xplorer is readily exportable around the world.

The Falco Xplorer is designed by Leonardo, from the aircraft to its sensor suite, mission system and ground control station, making the company a ‘one-stop-shop’ for unmanned capabilities. Advantages of this approach include the ability to offer competitive pricing and the ability to draw on knowledge and experience from across the business to tailor a Falco Xplorer package to the precise needs of customers, whether in terms of technology or commercial arrangements.

Brimstone for RPAS

MBDA’s Brimstone precision strike missile is being planned as the UK’s guided missile solution for the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Protector Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) programme. If confirmed, the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) Certifiable Predator B will enter service with the British weapon.

MBDA’s Brimstone missile planned for RAF’S Protector RPAS
MBDA’s Brimstone missile planned for RAF’S Protector RPAS

The integration plan is included as part of the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Main Gate selection of the aircraft and, if agreed, the missile will be integrated and fielded in line with the Platform’s introduction to service.

MBDA will now work together with UK MoD, U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and GA-ASI towards a programme which would see the missile undergo integration onto the Air System with trials and firings towards the end of the decade. The missile has already successfully completed a series of trial firings on MQ-9 Reaper during early 2014 that saw the weapon engaging 70 mph/113 km/h and maneuvering targets with extreme precision from the RPAS; unmatched by any other weapon since.

The missile promises to arm Protector with the ability to strike fast moving, maneuvering targets with both man in the loop post launch guidance and also autonomous post launch all weather capabilities. This confirms that the missile is a true multiplatform weapon that can operate across fast jets, RPAS and, most recently, helicopters. A number of further enhanced capabilities are planned to be developed and incorporated into the solutions for Protector, AH-64E and Typhoon, demonstrating MBDA’s commitment to spirally evolve the weapon to meet changing customer needs and adapting to new threats.

The UK Sales & Business Development Director, James Allibone, highlighted the significance of the news saying, «Brimstone offers customers the ability to have one missile that can operate across their fleet of operational aircraft, whether they are jets, RPAS or helicopters. One missile for all platforms means customers benefit from simplified and more efficient training, logistics and inventory management as well as Brimstone’s outstanding precision against the most challenging of targets».

 

Missile Characteristics

Weight 110 lbs/50 kg
Length 5.9 feet/1.8 m
Diameter 7 inches/180 mm
Guidance Millimetric Wave Radar and Semi-Active Laser
Warhead Tandem Shaped Charge