ROME — Officials at Italy's Leonardo are celebrating after the company's small e-scan radar Picosar cracked one of the toughest defense markets in the world — neighbouring France.

Leonardo officially announced on Monday that the Picosar radar would fly on the Patroller UAV acquired last year by the French army, with first deliveries this year.

The Patroller, produced by French firm Sagem, beat off competition from the Thales Watchkeeper UAV to win the contract, helped by its higher percentage of French content.

One non-French components was its radar, built in Edinburgh, Scotland by an Italian firm.

"The French DGA (procurement office) will select the best systems, so this is a real endorsement," said Brendan Nolan, vice president of sales for radar & advanced targeting at Leonardo Airborne and Space Systems.

Italian defense officials have pointed out how growing talk of a unified European defense industry, complete with cross border purchases, coexists with France's continuing preference to rely on home grown systems.

The 10 kg Picosar has now been sold to ten customers and flown on more than ten different platforms, including the Falco and SW-4 Solo produced by Leonardo, the Initsu Pacific Integrator and the Schiebel S-100 Camcopter. It offers Synthetic Aperture Radar mapping and Ground Moving Target Indicator capability with a 20km range and one metre resolution.

France's DGA signed with Sagem's parent company Safran last April for 14 Patroller UAVs for the army, with operations expected to start in 2018.

Nolan said that Leonardo's decision to design and build the Transmit-Receive modules in Edinburgh was a 'key discriminator'.

"We have outsourced some non-core manufacturing, but TR modules are so strategic we have maintained the ability to design and build them," he said.