In a field primarily dominated by the United States and Israel - though now introducing more concepts from Europe and elsewhere - the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) breed is broadening to include the Italian Piaggio Aero P.1HH Hammerhead full-sized, Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance (MALE) airframe. The P.1HH is based on the exceptional-looking Piaggio Avanti business aircraft with its unique twin-pusher engine configuration and sleek styling. With assistance from Selex Electronic Systems, the Avanti was developed over the course of two years to become the appropriately titled "Hammerhead" UAS (its forward wing structure mimics that of the Hammerhead shark), offering excellent range, payload-hauling capabilities and performance specifications. Flight testing of the system is scheduled to begin sometime in 2013. The vehicle was showcased in the recent (2013) International Defence Exhibition and Conference (otherwise abbreviated to "IDEX") held at Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The Hammerhead, as it stands, remains a rather bold move for the rather low-key Piaggio concern which has plied its modern trade through the sale of business aircraft.
The general overall configuration of the Hammerhead remains faithful to the original Avanti series. The fuselage is well-streamlined with a sloping nose cone and tapered at the rear to which a single vertical tail fin is affixed. High-mounted horizontal planes are fitted to the rudder in a "T-style" arrangement, clearing the powerplants in the process. The undercarriage is wholly retractable and of the tricycle arrangement including two main single-wheeled legs and a twin-wheeled nose leg. Ground clearance of the fuselage is noticeably low though the shoulder-mounted wings allow for more than enough clearance of the spinning propeller blades when on the ground. The main wing assemblies of the Hammerhead have been designed as removable to allow for ease-of-transportation of this full-sized system. As with the Avanti, the Hammerhead fields a small pair of forward wings at the nose.
The key physical change of the Hammerhead over that of the original Avanti is the now-shrouded flight deck and bulged dorsal fairing which houses the required SATCOM system, avionics suite and mission-applicable payload. Additionally, the gain in internal volume allows for more fuel cells to be added and, thusly, allows for greater operational ranges and higher mission endurance times to be reached. All of these qualities make for a strong UAS contender. Specific equipment will be carried on outboard underwing pylons as needed. Internal payload capacity is expected to reach 4,000lb.
Power for the Hammerhead is served through 2 x Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-66B turboprop engines arranged in a "pusher" configuration (as opposed to the traditional "puller" arrangement found on conventional prop-driven aircraft). These engines are slight variations of the original PT6A-66 turboprops features on the manned Avanti series which supply 850 shaft horsepower each. Maximum speed of the Avanti is 458 miles per hour with a range of 1,700 miles - the Hammerhead conceivably will maintain or possibly surpass such figures. The powerplants are mounted through each high-mounted wing assembly and drive multi-blade propeller assemblies. The Hammerhead is given a listed ceiling of 45,000 feet with an endurance time of some 16 hours.
Selex Electronic Systems is responsible for the Hammerhead's Vehicle Control and Management System (VCMS), Mission Management System (MMS) and the Air Data Terminal (ADT) linkage.
Piaggio holds the inherent benefit of completing their UAS design through an existing, certified airframe in the Avanti which has proven itself a top performing system in the civilian market. The Hammerhead's software suite will allow for completely automatic take-off and landing functionality and support a bevy of internal systems in a modular sense. Such a platform will serve potential operators through advanced reconnaissance, surveillance and patrol sorties, over land or over water.
The Piaggio concern was founded in 1884 out of Genoa, Italy (as Rinaldo Piaggio S.p.A.) and has served in the production of aircraft throughout World War 2, continuing its services in the aero realm today (2013). Piaggio produced the only four-engined Italian heavy bomber of World War 2 in the P.108 of 1942.
July 2014 - The Italian Air Force is projected to purchase at least 10 Hammerheads for service to begin in 2015. Piaggio is readying for production of some 190 examples to include other interested parties. A proof-of-concept airframe went airborne on November 14th, 2013.
March 2016 - It was announced that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has agreed to a $346 million deal to purchase eight P.1HH Hammerhead drones.
May 2016 - It was revealed that the P.1HH prototype crashed off the Sicilian coast on May 31st, 2016 after it took off from Trapani Air Force Base.
June 2017 - It was announced that the P.1HH program will restart its flight trials with a new-build prototype aircraft. A total of three aircraft are set to be completed. The launch customer remains the UAE.
July 2017 - Flight trials of the Hammerhead have resumed.
April 2018 - Deliveries of the first production-quality Hammerhead is scheduled for mid-2018. At least six aircraft are scheduled to be delivered by year's end.
April 2018 - It was announced that the Italian Air Force and the UAE are jointly working on the P.1HH's successor, designated the P.2HH (detailed elsewhere on this site).
May 2018 - The P.1HH successfully completed testing of flying Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BLoS) using remote communications and tracking systems.
February 2019 - Funding originally set aside for the P.2HH program will be used to completed the P.1HH UAV. These are set to be delivered to the Italian Air Force (four examples).
[ 1 Units ] : Piaggio Aero - Italy
Italy; United Arab Emirates
47.28 ft (14.41 m)
45.93 ft (14 m)
13.02 ft (3.97 m)
(Showcased structural dimension values pertain to the Piaggio P.1HH Hammerhead production model)
15,873 lb (7,200 kg)
25,353 lb (11,500 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Piaggio P.1HH Hammerhead production model)
2 x Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-66B turboprop engines developing 850 shaft horsepower each (estimated) driving multi-bladed propeller units in pusher arrangement.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the Piaggio P.1HH Hammerhead production model)
280 mph (450 kph; 243 kts)
44,948 feet (13,700 m; 8.51 miles)
1,864 miles (3,000 km; 1,620 nm)
3,000 ft/min (914 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Piaggio P.1HH Hammerhead production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
None. Payloads will consist primarily of surveillance, sensor and communications equipment in an internal cargo bay or external underwing pylon fittings. Payload capacity will be at least 4,000 lb according to promotional specifications.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Piaggio P.1HH Hammerhead production model)
P.1HH "Hammerhead" - Base Series Designation; based on the P.180 business aircraft; sole prototype lost in a crash during May 2016.
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