Designated P.1HH and based on the twin-turboprop, nine-passenger aircraft, the HammerHead has been supported in secret by Italy's defense ministry through a mix of financing, personnel and access to facilities. Until now, government involvement was kept quiet, but in May, Aviation Week first reported the ministry's investment in a classified UAV program, which Italian air force Lt. Gen. Claudio Debertolis, Italy's secretary general of defense and national armaments, confirmed as HammerHead last week.
Debertolis says the ministry and its industrial partners at Piaggio and Selex ES—which is supplying the HammerHead's mission management system—are ready to expand cooperation on the project.
Debertolis says the goal with HammerHead is to eventually carry up to 1,100 lb. of weapons, just enough to comply with the Missile Technology Control Regime. With a max speed of 395 kt. and endurance of 16 hr., Italian officials are calling the HammerHead the “Super MALE,” and say it is designed to operate as high as 45,000 ft. and loiter at 135 kt. Taxi tests have already begun and first flight is slated for the summer, Piaggio officials say.
HammerHead is expected to fly at the Italian government's Sardinian test ranges in August or September, with the air force managing military certification.
The initial HammerHead demonstrator will be followed by a production-standard aircraft that will fly next year. It will be fitted with a complete sensor suite and definitive airframe modifications, including an extended wing, ventral sensor bay (used for the Selex Seaspray 7300E radar in the basic configuration) and fuselage fuel tank. Italy is looking for an initial operational capability in 2016-17.
“We won't wait for France and the U.K.,” Guiseppe Giordo, CEO of Finmeccanica's Alenia Aeronautica aircraft manufacturing unit, said in May.