The Piaggio-Selex HammerHead unmanned air system unveiled at the Paris air show June 18 is the Italian air force’s choice to meet its requirement for a medium-altitude, long-endurance UAS, and the service plans to buy 10 of the systems, confirms Lt. Gen. Claudio Debertolis, Italy’s secretary general of defense and national armaments director.

He said the HammerHead will be capable of carrying weapons, but the weapon payload will be limited to 500 kg (1,100 lb.) so that the system is not covered by the Missile Technology Control Regime.

The Italian government has already been supporting the project, both with funding and the use of personnel and facilities. HammerHead is expected to fly at the Italian’s government’s Sardinian testing ranges in August or September, and the Italian air force is managing its military certification.

Debertolis, together with officials from Piaggio and Selex ES, also said they are ready to talk to other European companies and operators about expanding cooperation on the program, now that the Italian government’s involvement has been revealed. Alenia, Dassault and EADS Cassidian announced an agreement last weekend to continue working on a European MALE UAS, and leaders of the HammerHead program suggested today that it would be the least costly and fastest way to meet that requirement.

The initial HammerHead demonstrator will be followed by a production-standard aircraft, to fly next year, which 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.

Debertolis told Aviation Week in a May interview that Italy was working on a “black” UAS program, partly because of U.S. foot-dragging over Italy’s request to arm its Predator Bs. HammerHead is that program, he confirmed here.