Piaggio Aerospace, a wholly owned subsidiary of the UAE’s Mubadala, has unveiled the engineering test cabin for its Multirole Patrol Aircraft as the prototype nears its first flight. The MPA is a derivative of the company’s P.180 Avanti turboprop-powered business aircraft, much-modified for the patrol mission.
Tawazun’s ADASI is overseeing the project, with Piaggio developing the aircraft with a Saab mission system. The Swedish company has based the MPA’s system on that offered in its own maritime surveillance/patrol projects, and is undertaking the integration. The Piaggio project introduces a GMTI (ground-moving target indicator) capability that allows the aircraft to undertake overland surveillance missions, as well as maritime search.
The fuselage section on show at Dubai is a complete systems demonstrator/test vehicle, with full integration of the two forward-facing operator consoles (one for the sensor operator and one for the mission commander) and the two-pilot flight deck. The cabin also incorporates a new Becker intercom system from Germany, a third seat, and a small galley. Extra tanks and a toilet are added in the rear of the cabin. Sensors for the MPA comprise a Telephonics RDR-1700B radar with GMTI and SAR (synthetic aperture radar) mapping modes, an electro-optical turret, AIS (automatic identification system) and IFF.
Piaggio (Stand 1200, Chalet P3, Static S6) has adapted the Avanti airframe with longer wings and increased-span horizontal tail surfaces to increase patrol endurance. The wings also hold additional fuel and the MPA is designed to fly for around 9 hours at a typical 5,000-ft search altitude. However, it can reach 41,000 ft and a top speed of 350 knots if required. The higher takeoff weight of 16,500 pounds has dictated stronger undercarriage.
Piaggio is currently completing the aerodynamic prototype, which is due for roll-out before the end of this year, leading to an expected first flight early next year. This will be followed by a second aircraft that will be completed to the full production specification with mission system installed.
It is understood that the UAE is planning to acquire between 12 and 20 MPAs for surveillance duties. The MPA partners also see a strong requirement in the wider market for a multi-role and affordable patrol platform.