By Paolo Valpolini
The dominant element at the Leonardo booth at FEINDEF was definitely the HITFIST 30 manned turret, which is aiming to become the turret of choice for the cavalry version of the Spanish Army 8×8 Dragón armoured fighting vehicle. While the light and the unmanned 30 mm turrets were selected, that of the manned turret is still on stand-by, a decision being expected for late 2022. To cope with the Spanish requirement Leonardo considerably increased the turret ballistic and antimine protection, integrating new energy absorbing seats for the commander and gunner. It also integrated an Elbit Laser Warning Receiver as well as Indra radios and command and control systems, the latter being Government Furnished Equipment. Compared to the HITFIST 25 installed on the Italian Army VBM Freccia, the Spanish turret features a Lothar stabilised gunner sight while the Janus panoramic sight is fitted with an improves IR sensor. The MK44 Bushmaster Chain Gun installed is fitted with the airburst capacity, the gun fire control system being provided by Leonardo. The turret is fitted for receiving a twin Spike antitank missile launcher. The Leonardo HITFIST 30 carried out qualification tests that ended shortly before firing tests, as the chassis that was due to accept the turret was diverted to complete unmanned turret trials.
Awaiting the progress of that land-related programme Leonardo is also proposing its aviation products, not only to Spain but to the many Spanish-speaking country delegations that visited FEINDEF. A model of the M-346 was visible at the stand, the offer being much wider than the LIFT trainer, as it now also includes the Fighter Attack (FA) model, fitted with the Grifo radar. The M-346 already proved its capacity as aggressor, also in the Spanish skies, and numerous potential customers have requirements for an aircraft in that role, either with or without the radar.
The third proposal seem at FINDEF was an avionic component, precisely the M428 IFF compact transponder; not a new item, Leonardo already sold over 2,000 of this system, its encryption device can be easily removed at the end of flight ops allowing to store it in a secured area, easing the aircraft protection procedures at base. Small, 124 x 84 x 200 mm, and light, less than 3 kg, the M428 has been designed also for being used on board tactical UAVs without impacting their payload capacity. MkXIIA and Mode 5 capable, its Mode S makes it compatible with the latest ATC standards, the ADS-B IN function allowing it to receive information about civil tracks without switching on the radar and the interrogator. Spain should launch a bid for such a system in the near future, and Leonardo is ready to answer to that requirement.
Photo by P. Valpolini