Leonardo’s UK MOD contracts

By David Oliver

The UK Ministry of Defence has selected Leonardo and Thales, under a single source procurement, to deliver an integrated UK Defensive Aids System (DAS) designed and manufactured in the UK to equip the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) fleet of eight Shadow R.1 Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft to meet an Urgent Capability Requirement (UCR).

The advanced DAS will protect the aircraft against the latest-generation of infra-red (IR) missiles. The UCR will be delivered by a combined MOD/Leonardo/Thales team under a Leonardo prime systems integration contract, with the equipment being integrated onto the platform by Raytheon UK. The system includes the Leonardo DAS Controller; Leonardo Miysis Directed Infra-Red Counter Measure (DIRCM), Thales Elix-IR Threat Warner System (TWS) and Vicon XF Intelligent Countermeasur Dispensing System.

Leonardo is also part of an MoD contract awarded to MBDA UK to demonstrate SPEAR-EW, which is a new electronic warfare (EW) version of the SPEAR weapon system family on order for the RAF. SPEAR-EW will integrate a miniaturised EW payload from Leonardo, that will act as a stand-in jammer to greatly increase the survivability of RAF aircraft and suppress enemy air defences (SEAD).


In addition, Leonardo has been awarded a three-year contract by the UK MOD to develop a counter-UAV programme for the RAF. The programme will examine and inform how the RAF can detect, track, identify and defeat rogue drones. It will also support the RAF in responding to current and evolving threats and ensure it keeps pace with technology over time. The primary aim of the R&D programme will be to help understand and inform requirements for a potential future core RAF counter-drone capability. The new contract builds on a previous two-year programme that ended in March 2018. During the December 2018 drone threat to Gatwick airport, the RAF deployed a C-UAV system that was developed under the previous Leonardo contract.

Leonardo boosts Yeovil

Leonardo’s multi-role medium-lift AW149 helicopter will be based in Yeovil for demonstrations to potential European customers in Europe. Designed to meet a wide range of military missions including troop transport/troop insertion carrying up to 16 fully-equipped troops, cargo re-supply/external lift, CASEVAC/MEDEVAC, search and rescue (SAR), Special Forces (SF) operations, Combat SAR, Command and Control (C2), and close air support.

An optional integrated Leonardo Defence Aids Suite (DAS) would include the Osprey radar, SAGE electronic support measures (ESM) and a Multiple Aperture Infrared (MAIR) missile warning system. It is also being offered with a variety of armaments such as internally mounted 12.7 mm machines guns, gun pods, rocket launchers and ATM launchers. The twin engine helicopter features excellent hot and high performance and a max cruise speed of 287 km/h 155 kt. The AW149 has been certified by the Italian Directorate of Air Armaments (ARMAEREO) and Leonardo is pitching the AW149 for Poland’s requirement for a multi-role helicopter with its subsidiary PZL-Świdnik which is also the prime contractor for four AW101 Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopters ordered for the Polish Navy.

Yeovil is undertaking conversion of the Commando Merlin HC.3 to Mk.4 standard, and Leonardo is the prime contractor for the upgrading of 14 Royal Canadian Air Force CH-149 Cormorant SAR helicopters and the conversion of two additional former US Presidential VH-71 Kestrel helicopters. The upgrade will bring Canada’s CH-149s to the latest AW101-612 standard as used by the Royal Norwegian Air Force which includes the Osprey radar. The last of 12 Norwegian AW101s has been delivered along with the Italian Air Force’s HH-101A’s configured for Combat Search and Rescue operations (CSAR) and for support to the Special Forces.

Photos by David Oliver