Italy's Leonardo to make parts of new European military drone

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The Leonardo logo is seen during celebrations for the 500th Eurofighter Typhoon produced by the European consortium at Caselle airport in Turin, Italy, April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

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MILAN, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Italy's Leonardo (LDOF.MI) is set to build parts of a new European military drone, the director general of the aerospace group said on Thursday, after Spain gave its support to the new joint programme.

"Spain's approval of the Eurodrone... paves the way for the signing of the contract on a key collaboration programme that strengthens Europe's strategic autonomy and sovereignty," Leonardo Director General Lucio Valerio Cioffi said.

The project to design, develop and produce the drone is backed by Germany, France, Italy and Spain, and the approval by Spain was the last green light required.

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The unmanned aerial system, key for future European combat air systems, will also be built by Airbus (AIR.PA) and Dassault (DAST.PA).

Leonardo could make components for the drone at some of its plants in southern Italy, which have been suffering from a drastic fall in orders from Boeing (BA.N), the group said.

Cioffi said that the new programme "is a unique opportunity to promote the growth of technological capabilities, skills and qualified jobs, which is key to consolidate the process of European cooperation in the defence field".

With an expected length of some 16 metres and a wingspan of just under 30 metres, the drone will be able to stay in flight for more than 24 hours at heights of around 13,000 metres to monitor the situation on the ground with sensors such as radars and infrared cameras.

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Reporting by Francesca Landini Editing by Bernadette Baum

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