Following comprehensive testing at the PISQ (Poligono Interforze Salto di Quirra) joint armed forces test range in Sardinia, Leonardo’s new Mirach-40 (M-40) target drone has been authorised for operational use by the Italian Directorate of Air Armaments and Airworthiness (DAAA), as the national Military Airworthiness Authority (MAA).
This means the M-40 is now ready for operations under a 3-year target drone service contract from the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), which commenced in January 2018.
The M-40 is Leonardo’s latest entry in its ‘Mirach’ drone family, designed to simulate enemy threats and allow air, naval and ground forces to train with air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles such as the Stinger, Aster and Aspide. By looking, on sensors, the same as a threat aircraft or guided missile, the M-40 allows weapon and radar operators to train against a realistic target.
For 20 years, Leonardo has owned and operated the Mirach 100/5 drones on behalf of the Italian Armed Forces under a managed service arrangement at the PISQ test range. Under the latest service contract, which Leonardo signed with the NSPA, the Company will continue to operate its existing Mirach-100/5 while also supplementing training operations with the new M-40.
Leonardo’s target drones have enjoyed a long period of success dating back to the 1970s. The Mirach 100/5target was originally certified by the Italian MAA in 1998 and went on to become a common part of international navies and air forces’ toolkits. The system has been used to help train a large number of Armed Forces including those of the Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, UK, Algeria, Argentina and Israel.
The new M-40 is unique in that it is designed to provide medium-to-high performance at a price comparable with competitors’ entry-level drones, able to convincingly mimic a variety of aircraft and missiles, including radar, infrared (IR) and visual threats.
To make sure its performance appears as true-to-life as possible, the M-40 is able to perform very low-altitude sea skimming missions, tight formation flights and high-G manoeuvres. As a service, managed by Leonardo, the single-engine M-40 will provide significant cost savings to the customer as it is inexpensive to run and has a full 60 minutes’ endurance.