Warplanes: Arab UAVs

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March 28, 2016: Italian defense manufacturer Piaggio has its first export customer for its new P.1HH Hammerhead UAV. The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is buying eight Hammerheads plus ground control and aircraft support equipment and tech support. That comes out to about $44 million per Hammerhead. That may seem high but one reason is that Hammerhead was created by converting a manned aircraft into a UAV. In this case the 5.2 ton P180 Avanti twin prop aircraft was rebuilt as the Hammerhead UAV. While the P180 could carry ten people (1.8 tons) and stay aloft for four hours, the Hammerhead weighs six tons, can still carry 1.8 tons of sensors but will stay aloft for up to 16 hours at altitudes of up to 14,500 meters (45,000 feet). Hammerhead development took about two years and it was ready for service in 2015. Hammerhead was intended for military and civilian markets. Because it flies so high it is above commercial traffic and thus not subject to UAV restrictions in many countries. Hammerhead can be used for monitoring natural resources and maritime patrol. The P180 has been in use since 1990 which made development of the UAV version quicker, cheaper and easier.

The Italian armed forces is expected to place an order but one reason the UAE did so first was that since 2000 UAE and Indian companies (Mubadala from UAE and Tata from India) have been increasing their ownership of Piaggio and in 2015 Mubadala became the sole owner. This is part of a UAE strategy going back to the 1990s in which defense firms are acquired to make and sell military equipment to Middle Eastern countries. This strategy has worked and brought more non-oil related jobs to the region.

 


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