By Paolo Valpolini
“Colombia is a country on which Leonardo is focusing its commercial efforts, and is one of the most interesting for the Company within Latina America” Marco Buratti, Leonardo’s Chief Commercial Officer and Senior Vice-President for International Marketing and Strategic Campaigns tells EDR On-Line just before signing a Memorandum of Understanding with CODALTEC (click here for the Press Release), the defence electronic Colombian public company. Leonardo foresees possible cooperation with CODALTEC, Mr. Buratti adding that “most countries express the will of increasing the level of their industrial base, but not many are in the position to do so, one of those which can being obviously Brazil, followed by Colombia which is ahead of most other countries.”
To date the presence of Leonardo in Colombia, looking at what was sold by the companies that have now merged in the Italian major defence company, is relevant to some air traffic control radars, for which Leonardo has a support contract, some civil aviation navigation aids via the United States, and a few civilian helicopters. In the defence field the major presence is in the naval field: “the National Colombian Navy has received our 76 mm gun, already fitted with the Strales/Dart capability, nearly at the same time of the Italian Navy.”
The Italian will to increase its footprint in Colombia was made evident by the presence of the Deputy-Director of the General Armaments Direction, Vice-Admiral Dario Giacomin, the Italian military maintaining very good relations with their Colombian counterparts. “This shows the overall interest of Italy as a system to be present, and the Government support will further be enhanced when the 2020 Financial Law will integrate a new legislation widening the capacity of government-to-government agreements compared to the past,” Buratti explains.
Leonardo is well aware of the competition it is going to face in the country where other major countries have historical relationship with Bogotá, thus the company is looking at those business areas where it can still have good opportunities.
Starting from the sky, the M-346 in the Fighter Attack configuration is one of them. “We were required to do presentations, and the Fuerca Aerea de Colombia has shown a considerable interest for that aircraft for those Close Air Support operations that cannot be conducted with propeller aircraft or do not require high-tier fighters,” Buratti says, underlining that Leonardo is looking to establish proper industrial relationship with local credible partner as transfer of technology is a must in any such contract.
In the rotary wing field Leonardo is aware that most Colombian Bell helicopters are reaching the end of their operational life, 2021 marking the beginning of the phasing out. “We did a demo tour with our AW139 to the benefit of the Colombian National Army,” Buratti says, “and our helicopter was very much appreciated as it adapts well to this complex territory.” Here the main sponsor is the US Air Force, which will very soon get its first MH-139 built in Philadelphia, adopted to ensure protection to the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) bases and the transportation of U.S. government and security forces.
“In a recent meeting the Chief of the Armada Nacional de Colombia expresses the interest of his service especially for Maritime Patrol Aircraft,” the Leonardo representatives say. “We are proposing our ATR-72, and for this we team with CODALTEC.”
Looking at the sea, Buratti stresses the very good relationship between the Navies of the two countries, Colombia having expressed interest in exploiting some of the state-of-the-art capabilities that are currently being delivered to the Italian Navy. “Among those I would like mentioning the dual-band fire control radar, the fixed antennas radar, and the integrated platform control system of the PPAs, the multirole patrol ship under delivery,” Buratti says underlining that some solutions are ahead of those proposed by competitors, and that i.e. radars were already integrated by Navantia of Spain, that company having strong ties with Colombia.
Space surveillance is another issue, Leonardo providing services through the Cosmo Skymed constellation, an important initiative in order to increase the links between Italy and Colombia according to Mr. Buratti.
Widening the scope to Latin America, “we are pretty active in the security area with infrastructure protection, mainly with sensors and C2 systems, cyber protection, and intelligence, with Big Data analytics,” Buratti explains. Talks have already started in countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Perú, while during Expodefensa contacts were established with Ecuador. Security is not only linked to governmental entities, Leonardo looking also at private companies and Italian companies involved in the area, with the aim of diversifying its customer basis in the area. Increasing the reaction capability in case of natural disasters, in countries with extended territories, is a mission that fits the company C-27J Spartan tactical transport aircraft, already in service in Mexico and Perú. Although there it is fielded by the Air Force, in case of need it was deployed in support of civil authorities. Many nations expressed an interest, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay among them, and various campaigns are underway, not necessarily with Defence entities but mostly with Civil Protection and regional authorities. Different business models are being proposed, ranging from leasing to third party services, the Italian system providing support i.e. through SACE, the Italian export credit agency.
Photos by Leopardo and Paolo Valpolini