DSEI 2021: Leonardo signs SPA with UK MOD on airborne survivability

Leonardo has signed a Strategic Partnering Arrangement (SPA) with the Royal Air Force (RAF), Defence Equipment & Support and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory to develop platform-level integrated protection systems for UK military aircraft.

The Leonardo Modular Advanced Platform Protection System (MAPPS) controller, which exploits the NATO Defensive Aids System (NDAS) standard, will be at the heart of the system when equipping UK fleets with these capabilities, according to a September 14 company release.

Infrared countermeasure systems are gaining particular traction in the aerospace market due to peer and near-peer military capabilities. Richard Thomas

The company already provides protective equipment and countermeasures for a range of UK military aircraft, including RAF Typhoons, Shadow R2 surveillance aircraft, E-7 Wedgetail airborne early warning aircraft and the AW159 Wildcat, AW101 Merlin, and Apache AH-64E rotary platforms.

Leonardo stated that the new SPA is the second such arrangement with the UK MOD, following the signing in July 2016 of a ten-year agreement focussing on the development of future rotary-wing platforms and export potential.

The UK APP solution will incorporate equipment that can detect, identify and defeat threats to an aircraft. Leonardo’s electronic warfare personnel in Luton will integrate the system, which will be controlled by the company’s smart defensive aids system computer, called the MAPPS controller. This can independently evaluate threats and automatically launch life-saving countermeasures. 

Specific countermeasures will include Leonardo’s Miysis Directional InfraRed CounterMeasures (DIRCM) system (pictured), which uses high-powered laser beams to protect aircraft from heat-seeking missiles, and the company’s BriteCloud decoy, which uses advanced jamming to protect from radar-guided threats.

Depending on the aircraft, the MAPPS system could include advanced radar warning and electronic surveillance measure capabilities and Leonardo will also draw on technologies from other UK-based companies in capability areas where they are leaders in their field.

Given the evolving challenges faced by western militaries in operating in contested environments and the potential growth of peer and near-peer competition, countermeasure systems, particularly infrared, are likely to be high on the procurement list in the near-term.

Speaking with AIR International at DSEI 2021, Dave Appleby, UK sales director of Leonardo UK’s Electronics business segment, describing the peer and near-peer capabilities as a “multispectral threat”, stating that militaries have to be able to “stand their ground” against potential rivals.

The UK has been paying particular attention to countermeasure provision for its military aircraft, with the MOD recently announcing a £64m contract with Boeing UK for the provision of Infra-Red Suppression Systems for the RAF’s fleet of Mk5 and Mk6 Chinook helicopters.

By Richard Thomas