By David Oliver
According to Mauro Moretti, CEO and General Manager of Leonardo, Europe, not just the European Union, should reshape its defence industry. He was speaking in London on 12 January at the press launch of Leonardo MW Ltd, a new single entity for its UK-based operations.
This brings together AgustaWestland Ltd, Selex ES, Finmeccanica UK Ltd and DRS Technologies UK Ltd and their 7,100 employees under the Leonardo brand. In a challenging world market, Moretti highlighted the successes of these UK-based companies in electronics, helicopter development and manufacture and cyber defence.
The new Chairman and Managing Director of Leonardo MW Ltd, Norman Bone, echoed these successes. In 2015 the group’s turnover was £2.3 million of which £1.3 billion was for exports. In the electronics sector these included its new Osprey X-band active electronically scanned array (AESA) surveillance radar being selected to meet the maritime search radar requirement for the US Navy’s (USN’s) MQ-8C Fire Scout rotary-wing unmanned aircraft system (UAS), Helicopter Integrated Defensive Aids System (HIDAS), BriteCloud to replace chaff & flare, and sensors for the F-35 Litening targeting pod.
Norman Bone admitted that there will be fewer start-up programmes in the future but Leonardo MW will continue to look for spiral development of existing technologies with other companies. These include the IFF Mode 5 upgrade with Airbus, the 10-year Typhoon Total Availability eNnterprise (TyTAN) agreement with BAE Systems, and the Dragonfire high-energy laser demonstrator with MBDA. He also welcomed the UK 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) and the fact that Leonardo is being selected by the UK MoD helps exports.
In the helicopter sector centred in Yeovil, Bone sees more opportunities to sell the AW159 Wildcat and AW101 and the growing market for unmanned aerial systems (UAS). The latter were highlighted by the recent Unmanned Warrior exercise held in Scotland when an IDS, now Leonardo MW Ltd, Hero SD-150 was demonstrated with the Osprey sensor system and the Schiebel S-100 with the Seaspray radar.
Yeovil also provides support for the Royal Navy and British Army Wildcat fleet, Lynx and Super Lynx for export customers and the British Amy’s WAH-64 Apaches. It produces components for the AW189 twin-engine multipurpose helicopter that has been selected to provide the UK’s SAR service. Norman Bone forecast future Leonardo helicopter sales of £5 billion over the next five years.
Speaking of the Leonardo Group, Mauro Moretti said that the company now has no financial problems and has consolidated its position as Europe’s top electronic and cyber defence providers. There would be more investment in UK-based technology to expand its core technical expertise and capabilities. Moretti saw no problem with BREXIT and the arrival of the Trump administration as a spur for defence spending by European members of NATO.
Leonardo is concentrating on testing and marketing multirole light attack variants of its M345 and M346 jet trainers and is developing a multirole replacement to its ATR42/72 twin-turboprop aircraft and a multirole combat helicopter to replace the Italian Army’s AW129 Mangusta.
Mauro Moretti said that he sees the opportunities for future mergers with other European defence companies to strengthen the West against China which he predicted would be the biggest investor in defence in the next decade.