New technological and market challenges faced by Elettronica, and its entry into the Space EW domain

Rome, 20 December 2021 – “The year of Elettronica’s 70th anniversary sees the company at a renewed starting point, with a new long-term business plan and major investments; an increased “value proposition”, through innovative technologies and operational functions and the company consolidating its market share through the acquisition of new markets and new solutions for existing markets. Last but not least, Elettronica is entering the space domain with proprietary and state-of-the-art EW solutions”. said Elettronica’s CEO and COO Domitilla Benigni when commenting on the company’s presentation of its strategies and new product lines.

70 years after its establishment, Elettronica has consolidated itself in terms of size and credibility, becoming an important international player in the defence, security and cyber domains. Its value proposition has been strengthened over the years and the company has adjusted itself to the growing complexity of operational scenarios, where the dominance of the electromagnetic spectrum, as an enabling factor that cuts across the sea, land, air, cyber and space domains, has become increasingly important.

The company’s growth, in terms of size and technology, is the result of its constant focus on European defence cooperation, constant investments in research and development and the opening of new regional markets.

To meet these objectives, during 2021 the company reorganised and drafted a new long-term strategic Business Plan.

The TENET 2030 Business Plan defines the company’s goals and ambitions, the factors and resources needed to strengthen leadership in our target market using a growth model based on innovation, expansion into new regional markets and sustainability.

Product and Service Innovation aims to maintain our leadership position on strategic EW solutions,  continually innovating to anticipate market trends by focusing on refining our flagship products where most future growth can be captured. Expanding into new regions will present significant market opportunities in currently unserved regions like North America, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific. These goals will be supported by considerable investments, which include:

  • R&D, where investments of €48 million are planned for a three-year period from 2022 until 2024, of which 30% will be directed towards new business and 70%
  • Investments aimed at Digital Transformation worth €42.5 million of which €8.5 million + € 14.5 million for HW, SW, Security and new business upgrades;
  • Investments aimed at the creation and expansion of laboratories and production lines worth €17.0 million. This expansion will cover areas like mission support, the EW Academy, the EW Centre, customer support benches, the test range and jamming laboratory.
  • Investments in plant management worth approximately € 2.5 million.
    Focus on Electronic Warfare Management

These new challenges are being met with a solution provider/capability integrator approach developed over the last ten years. This sees the company focusing primarily on the management of integrated EMSO (Electromagnetic Support Operations) architectures conceived as “systems of systems” connected by datalinks and governed using Artificial Intelligence. The ability to manage these complex architectures makes it possible to exploit the synergies between  various functions, maximising the operational capabilities in the new generation of platforms.

The key to obtaining this important increase in capability is the optimal management of information coming from different sensors. This is done using Elettronica’s ELT950 EW Manager. This capacity has now reached a high level of maturity with the EW Centreproduct which is an integrated, multi-domain and multi-platform system for managing EW operations. It is placed at the centre of a network of distributed nodes to support and coordinate the entire mission life cycle: from the planning phase (using knowledge of the scenario and potential threats) to the mission execution and the post-mission debriefing and analysis.

The trend towards increasingly net-centric platforms, and interconnected and distributed intelligent weapon systems emphasises the need for cross-platform command and control systems.

The transfer of information between units involved in a mission can change the balance and outcome of an operation. “Information Superiority” is, therefore, a force multiplier providing benefits especially at inter-force and international level. Elettronica, as a result of its experience in managing the electromagnetic spectrum, has a complete and effective battlefield control capability thanks to its EMSO C4(Command, Control, Communication, and Computers) products.

New Self Protection Solutions

Continual research and development activities has allowed Elettronica to make a further technological leap in its self-protection systems that it is now bringing to the market:

In the air domain, the main innovations concern self-protection capabilities for large aircraft and special missions platforms, as well as for combat, escort and search and rescue helicopters. Our self-protection products cover every aspect of the electromagnetic spectrum, from Radio Frequency (RF) to optronic threats. It includes our RWR ELT/162 fully digital alarm system. This has been chosen by the Italian Army to protect the new AW249 NEES helicopter from RF threats. Other RF countermeasures include our IEWS on-board jammer equipping the Italian Army C-SAR helicopter and SPARK, which is a new expandable jammer that  protects  platforms against radar- guided missile threats. Once the RF frequency of the threat has been identified, SPARK is ejected some distance from the platform, presents a more tempting target than the aircraft and lures the missile away.

The new addition to the family of electro-optical countermeasures is the ELT/577 QUIRIS new generation of DIRCMs (Direct InfraRed Countermeasures). This is entirely  European technology using Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) technology to generate a high level of protection and increased efficiency in confined spaces. The ELT/577  can be integrated with any appropriate missile warning system. It has also been chosen by the Italian Army to protect its new new AW249 NEES helicopters against infrared threats.

The ELT/577 is the result of continuous technological research confirming Elettronica’s status as a globally recognised “Jamming House”.

The consolidation of this technology has extended electro-optical  self-protection capabilities to the naval domain via the QUIRIS system, which has been successfully tested on board Italian Navy ships. We have witnessed in recent years the spread of the so-called asymmetric warfare, which includes an increase in the threat posed by mini and micro drones.

To address this using its consolidated experience with the company’s ADRIAN anti-drone system, Elettronica is developing an effective variant in the maritime domain to detect and counter UAVs in sea operations. Furthermore, electronic warfare technologies  for underwater platforms are seeing an uptick in the naval domain, with the Virgilius EW system being developed for the Italian Navy’s new U212 submarines.

It is in the ground domain that Elettronica has the biggest news of the year.

Thanks to its Zenithal Jammer, Elettronica is venturing for the first time into Space EW. Zenithal is a real technological leap forward that has already been patented and tested with the “Digital Twin” methodology that supports military land or naval operations. This , allows jamming or deception countermeasures to be taken against aerial platforms equipped with radar imaging sensors like synthetic aperture radars, such as satellites or drones. The jammer acts by inhibiting or denying the satellite the use of the electromagnetic spectrum, and creates false targets or obscure  real target with false images.

Another important technology in the ground domain is NADIR(Networked Anti Drone Interception Recognition). This is an extension of the anti-drone capability used by security and police forces to protect urban environments, large events and critical infrastructure from malicious drones by detecting, recognising and neutralising the threat by using jamming techniques that have been specifically tested for the urban environment when operational conditions and the legislation allow. The Tactical EW Suite (TEWS) has also been added to the ground domain’s product portfolio. This is a net-centric electromagnetic area protection system that has situational assessment, threat identification and EW functions including electronic support, jamming and command and control.

Furthermore, Elettronica has developed the Stand-In Jammer.This is the first example of a MUT (Manned-Unmanned Teaming) system that enables active countermeasures to taken and allows manned-unmanned platforms to cooperate with each other in neutralising threats to both platforms. This solution aims to provide integrated and effective support to counters fifth and sixth generation air defence threats. Elettronica’s Stand-Off Jammer can effectively counter enemy surveillance capabilities by degrading or neutralising medium/long-range radar surveillance systems.

Another important milestone in our research concerns the cyber domain.  Cyber EW is the ability to conduct cyber operations through the electromagnetic spectrum. Cyber EW is a technological breakthrough for electronic countermeasures. It could, in the future, be a concrete response to threats which Elettronica is already focused on.

Enabling Technologies

Regarding Elettronica’s enabling technologies, it is worth highlighting the large family of Artificial Intelligence algorithms that make it possible to address and solve the problem of classifying signals, patterns and events, and supporting  autonomous and human-controlled decision-making. Giving autonomy to platforms and/or payloads, in terms of spectrum access and spectrum management, is a paradigm shift in the decision-making process.

In recent years Elettronica has successfully pursued its digital transformation path. This focuses on the development of the Digital Twin for its products as a very promising application. Working on a digitally designed product while the system is being developed makes it possible to reduce integration, testing and validation activities, and gain advantages in terms of efficiency, costs and safety.

In general, Elettronica’s aptitude for technological innovation and digital transformation, which benefits the entire “defence ecosystem”, including defence ministries industry and academe, allows the needs that are evolving in the current geopolitical and military environment scenarios to be rapidly addressed.

The Market

In recent years Elettronica has continuously maintained a +10% annual growth trend.

The results for 2021, the outcome of intense business development activities in recent years, show a further leap forward with an expected closure of around €300 million (over 15% compared to initial forecasts) of which 80% is from the Europe and Consortia area whose main thrust is linked to the air domain (60%), followed by logistics (20%), naval (15%) and ground (5%).

Orders acquired by Elettronica in the last year are 60% higher than the annual average of the last decade. The volume of orders has increased from €370 million in the period from 2011 to 2013, to €700 million in the three-year period from 2019 to 2021.

The main acquisitions in terms of orders have concern new EFA products for the German Air Force and logistics orders for Italy, the UK, Germany and Spain, the development of a new generation of systems for the NH90 (MRFH programme)for the German Ministry of Defence, U212 submarines for the Italian Navy, an EW Suite (DIRCM and RWR) for the Italian Air Force’s NEES helicopter, the German F126 frigate programme, and various EU/EDIDP (European Defence Industrial Development Programme) initiatives within a European industrial team in which Elettronica plays a leading role for EW, including Carmenta, a programme which defines new European EW systems, in which Elettronica also plays a leading role.

Internationally, Elettronica has managed, despite the impact of the pandemic, to win a tender amounting to about €20 million for the supply of the EW suite for the UAE Navy’s Falaj-3 class patrol vessels, once again affirming its role as the country’s main partner in the EW domain. Other important orders were acquired, once again in the Middle East, in the customer support domain, confirming the growing importance of this business line, which now accounts for over 30% of annual turnover. Furthermore, a series of initiatives were launched in 2021, with a view to rethinking our presence in international markets, currently entrusted to a network of sales offices, with a view to becoming a transnational Group with fully operational and self-sufficient subsidiaries in the next three years. Finally, 2021 was the year in which Elettronica approached new areas, in particular the Asia-Pacific region and the Americas.

The market forecasts for the next three years envisage the order portfolio growing by €874 million thanks to research and development investments and the consolidation of the European market and Consortia and, in particular, the enlargement of the non-EU market, with the company experiencing further growth in the Middle East and entering new markets (Africa and North America). We expect 20.6% generated from consortium programmes (in particular the Tempest, EFA and EU programmes), 11.5% generated from the domestic market, 11.8% generated from Africa, 6% generated from the Asia-Pacific, 7.4% generated from Europe, and 3% generated from North and Central America.

In terms of domains and value proposition, the next three years will be characterised by the growth of the ground domain (TEWS, EW CENTRE, etc.) especially in foreign markets, the consolidation of the naval domain thanks to technologies that have reached maturity and new air programmes, including C27J, MLU, CSAR second batch, 767tanker and NH90 (NFH/TTH). In addition, there are the long-term combat aircraft programmes, like the Tempest and EFA Evo, that should not only increase market volumes, but grant access to new technological edges. Lastly, the company will should enter the space domain and increase the proliferation of cyber EW across various domains.

Photo courtesy Luca Peruzzi