Leonardo continues to embrace partnerships to deliver exciting new technologies and capabilities

July 2020

The unexpected Covid-19 pandemic has confirmed the strategic importance of aerospace, defence, and security to the stability and security of every country. While safeguarding the health of the company’s people, maintaining production, and ensuring business continuity, Leonardo has responsibly responded to the need for border protection, emergency assistance, secure communication, and greater digitalisation supporting customers and governments worldwide in the spirit of collaboration and partnerships. Innovation is key to national economic prosperity and security for communities, including international and joint efforts.

Team Tempest is one example of industry and governments coming together to develop crucial innovative capabilities, in this case, combat air systems. Leonardo in the UK is one of the four founding members of Team Tempest—alongside BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, and MBDA UK—which was brought together by the UK Ministry of Defence to develop a next-generation combat air system for the UK and partner nations. Since the team was contracted to begin development work in 2018, Italy and Sweden have announced their intent to work with the UK on this project, reinforcing an even stronger commitment from Leonardo through its Italian industrial capabilities.

Leonardo’s on-going work as part of the team is to develop Tempest’s integrated sensing function, affecting function and communications. One component of this development, and the focus of a recent lab demonstration, is radar warning. This technology is used to sense the radio frequency (RF) signals emitted by potentially hostile radars and then use this information for a variety of purposes, including warning an operator that an enemy is trying to “lock on” to their aircraft.

Such sensor technologies can also support tasks such as intelligence gathering and combat identification. In the future, threat radars are likely to use a range of technologies and software techniques to make it harder to identify their signals. This means that Tempest’s sensors will need to be sophisticated enough to be able to counter such techniques and flexible enough to be updated in response to new technologies as they emerge on the battlefield.  

The Eurofighter Typhoon programme also highlights the strengths in industrial partnerships, including between the UK and Italy, which have also jointly benefitted from experience with Tornado and will now work together again on Tempest.

Leonardo’s involvement in Typhoon has been central and extensive over decades, spanning from airframe to sensors and systems. As for a few examples, Leonardo leads a consortium that draws on the best of European engineering expertise to deliver radar, thermal technology, and digital capabilities. The EuroRADAR consortium brings together Leonardo, Hensoldt, and Indra to provide the Captor-E radar. The EuroDASS consortium sees Leonardo, Elettronica, Indra, and Hensoldt working in partnership to deliver the Praetorian DASS. Meanwhile, EuroFIRST, which provides the PIRATE IRST, is a consortium that includes Leonardo, Thales, and Tecnobit.

Kuwait is the latest country to join the elite club of Eurofighter Typhoon operators, having ordered a fleet of 28 aircraft, making the Kuwait Air Force one of the best-equipped internationally. Kuwait will be the first nation to receive Typhoon equipped with its new “Captor-E” E-scan radar system.

Due to Typhoon’s large radome and its increased cooling and electrical-power capacity, the platform can accommodate a radar array that is larger and more powerful than those on other combat aircraft and a repositioner, providing it with a game-changing wide field of regard. This enables the targeting of opponents at the longest-possible range and the widest angle, offering a significant combat edge.

Some aircraft rely on an airframe design to make it hard for radars to see. However, threats are continuously evolving, and an airframe is a difficult part of the aircraft to update. That is why Typhoon’s “Praetorian” defensive aids sub-system employs a range of electronic countermeasures that allow the aircraft to digitally hide its signature, or to generate radar noise to confuse enemy radar operators. These countermeasures, which together provide the platform with “digital stealth,” can be effectively adapted as threats change, keeping the Typhoon well protected into the future.

As well as radar, the Eurofighter Typhoon carries the PIRATE Infra-red Search and Track (IRST) system, which can target and track opposing aircraft via their heat signatures. The key benefit of this high-tech sensor is its passive nature, which means it does not emit energy—which is useful when the Typhoon needs to remain extra covert. Following years of software enhancements, the PIRATE IRST is one of the most reliable and accurate thermal sensors on any combat aircraft.

In the air defence domain, within the area of training, working closely with operational partners is crucial in the development of pilots’ skills and increased safety practices as they are intended to move to latest-generation platforms. The Leonardo-Italian Air Force International Flight Training School (IFTS) Agreement was inspired by the common decision of these two preeminent national entities to foster synergies to the benefit of the country: combining the capabilities of the largest Italian industrial player in the aerospace, defence, and security sectors with the Air Force’s expertise in the military flight-training domain.

The M-346 is also showing its full potential as a true and cost-effective multirole aircraft beyond advanced training, with the ongoing development of the M-346FA (Fighter Attack), which is undergoing testing activities also involving, among other factors, the integration of the Grifo radar of Leonardo.   

In the rotorcraft sector, Leonardo is proud to support militaries and defence forces worldwide with their missions. Recently, Leonardo delivered the first of two AW169 basic-training twin-engine helicopters to the Italian Army. The second aircraft is expected to be handed over in the next few months.

By working closely with the customer and understanding its goals and vision for its fleet, the introduction of the new-generation training helicopter (designated UH-169B) will allow the Italian Army to prepare its crews for the operational transition to its all-new advanced multirole Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) programme developed on the AW169 dual-use baseline, which is aimed at a longer-term fleet modernisation and rationalisation plan.

The two AW169 trainers will enable the Italian Army to become familiar with the platform’s basic characteristics during the development of the new LUH. The LUH programme is aimed at progressively replacing ageing models, including the A109, AB206, AB205, AB212, and AB412 to meet the evolving operational requirements, and benefits from a more efficient supply chain based on a single-platform approach. This also ensures greater logistics efficiency and interoperability for homeland security and emergency response operations as the AW169 fleets of government operators grow further in Italy. 

In May 2020, despite the COVID-19 situation, Leonardo and Thales were able to support the UK Ministry of Defence with the first successful firings of the Thales “Martlet” Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM) from Leonardo’s AW159 Wildcat helicopter.

The firings were conducted as part of the UK MoD’s Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW) programme and demonstrated the integration of the Martlet onto the AW159 platform. This represents a major milestone for the programme and will enable this high-end capability to enter service with the Royal Navy later this year.

Leonardo is ready to support evolving requirements in the UK for rotary-wing capabilities, with the AW149 new-generation medium twin-engine multirole helicopter as an ideal solution proposed in the framework of future modernisation programmes.