Falco UAV Flies With New Radar as Program Gathers Pace
In the last few days Selex Galileo has flight-tested its Falco UAV for the first time with the company’s Gabbiano T20N radar installed. Typically the Falco carries the Selex Galileo PicoSAR multi-mode AESA radar in the nose, but the Gabbiano provides an option giving enhanced maritime capability. The installation of the Gabbiano has entailed a redesign and enlargement of the nose profile, aerodynamically tested previously, but only recently has the sensor been installed for flight. The company notes that it has also integrated government-furnished equipment from other sensor manufacturers with the Falco to meet individual customer requirements.
Selex Galileo is building Falcos at the rate of approximately one per month at its Ronchi dei Legionari facility, which also produces the Mirach 100 target and a range of mini/micro UAVs. Production rate can be at least doubled, if required. The company is currently completing the 40th production Falco. Whether that number includes aircraft from a co-production program undertaken with the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra is unclear.
While Pakistan openly acknowledges this activity, Selex Galileo does not name its customers. However, it has noted the existence of a co-production program of “significant numbers” and that it involves a transfer of production/assembly capabilities to the overseas site. That process has advanced to a stage where Selex Galileo is supporting its partner to produce parts locally.
Three other overseas nations have also bought the Falco, and Selex Galileo hopes to announce that it has firmed up a fifth customer in the first half of next year. As well as direct sales, the company also revealed that it has been operating Falcos since last year on service provision contracts. While the company would not be drawn on customer(s) for these services, it characterized them as either a means of fulfilling urgent operational Istar requirements, or as a means of evaluating the Falco as a prelude to a potential acquisition.
Meanwhile, Selex Galileo is currently involved in the second flight-test campaign for the Falco EVO, a derivative with longer-span wings and longer tail boom that uses the same fuselage and systems as the baseline aircraft. The prototype Falco EVO made its first flight in July this year from the company’s test site at Cheshnegirovo air base in Bulgaria, completing initial trials in September. This location has been used for several Falco trials, and offers a permissive environment for the testing of UAVs. A second modification kit for producing an EVO vehicle is now under construction, and a third trials campaign is planned for March/April next year. This will include customer demonstrations.