Leonardo, the Italian defense company known for its medium-altitude long-endurance (UAS), made a significant breakthrough at the Paris Air Show by unveiling its Falco Xplorer unmanned aircraft system equipped with a MBDA Brimstone missile. This development marks a notable shift in Italy’s attitude towards arming UAS. For the past twenty years, Leonardo has been a prominent player in UAS production, with approximately sixty Falco drones currently in operation worldwide. Historically, the company has primarily promoted its systems for civilian applications, as well as intelligence gathering and surveillance missions.
In a collaborative effort, Leonardo and MBDA are working together to integrate the Brimstone missile onto the Falco Xplorer. The two companies are conducting joint studies and demonstrations to ensure seamless integration. The aim is to make this variant available to customers by 2025. Importantly, the decision to develop this armed drone was not driven by a specific requirement from the Italian Air Force but rather in response to demand from other customers. This approach has reflected a prevailing sentiment within the Italian defense community, which has harbored reservations or even taboos regarding the arming of such systems.
The Falco Xplorer is a MALE UAS ( medium-altitude long-endurance medium-altitude long-endurance) developed by Leonardo S.p.A. of Italy. Aimed at military and civilian markets, the drone is not subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) restrictions making it easily exportable around the world. The system is aimed at dual-use requirements, providing 24/7, all weather persistent regional surveillance, covering a wide range of missions and complementing typical military roles with governmental missions. Sensors suite is highly customisable and based on: Multifunction SAR radar, E/O turret and Signal Intelligence Suite. The Falco Xplorer gathers information far over the horizon, relayed in real time via secure satellite connection to C4I centres.
Brimstone is a ground or air-launched ground attack missile developed by MBDA UK for the UK’s Royal Air Force. It was originally intended for “fire-and-forget” use against mass formations of enemy armour, using a millimetre wave (mmW) active radar homing seeker to ensure accuracy even against moving targets. The tandem shaped-charge warhead is much more effective against modern tanks than older similar weapons such as the AGM-65G Maverick missile. Three Brimstones are carried on a launcher that occupies a single weapon station, allowing a single aircraft to carry many missiles.