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International Press Tour Edinburgh – Leonardo’s Centers of Excellence for Radar, Lasers and Manufacturing

Leonardo’s Surveillance and Laser Business is booming. With its UK originated technology MYSIS DIRCM Exports are on target to double. Products designed, integrated and tested and supported from the Edinburgh site are a source of pride and revenue and were presented at the International press tour

The International press tour organized by Leonardo Company’s Airborne and Space Systems Division was held on the 9th of October 2018 in Edinburgh with the  participation  of Cem Akalin, Managing Editor of Defence Turkey Magazine as well as the other  defence editors and correpondents. While at the press tour, the executives of Leonardo Company’s Airborne and Space Systems Division; Brendan NOLAN, VP Sales, Radar and Advanced Targeting - Des BALMFORTH, VP Airborne AESA Radar - Stan HARGREAVES, Operational Capability Manager ISR Radar- Audrey BLACK, VP Advanced Targeting and Dave GOURLAY, Campaign Manager gave a briefing that shared up-to-date information about the MIYSIS DICRM (Directed Infrared Counter Measure Missile System) and the AESA Surveillance radar program.

 Introductions and an overview of the press tour schedule was provided by Brendan NOLAN which put the history of Leonardo into context, setting the scene for the significance of the 2nd generation of the AESA radar and DIRCM. He introduced the executives and underlined that both of the VPs that deliver the business were present at the briefing, he said “It is important I think that we are not just here as a sales organization, you’ll get it from the people that are actually delivering the business.”  

Leonardo’s Edinburgh site is home to Centers of Excellence for radar, lasers and manufacturing. NOLAN shared that they are very proud of the facilities that they have developed and invested in. He stated that “these investments got us in the position that we are in today, of being absolutely world leading in AESA technology and also in laser technology. We have around 1,800 employees depending on the demographics and the work flow – and that size is across 2 main buildings. 70% of the staff are engineers and specialists, and as we really work with the supply chain, the people that we retain here are really the value added, the people that are putting the systems together and keeping us world leading. Things like circuit boards and cards that we can buy in, we now buy in, so that the core of the 1,800 people here are absolutely employed to add value to the business and keep us where we are in the market. We were very lucky to be awarded The Queen’s Award for Enterprise some years ago, which is an external benchmark of what we do.”  

A review of the programs was presented, and the press room was filled with participants, some of whom were well versed in the various programs. The Edinburgh site’s 75-year heritage and the various programs was an enjoyable walk down memory lane for many participants and those presenting due to their seasoned experience and tenure in the industry. NOLAN noted “When we travel around the world, we see a lot of nations that have aspirations to get into this high-end defence, they’ve got the technical understanding the PHDs and the MSCs and the clever people, but what they haven’t got is that history, it’s the history and that context that allows us to carry on growing and developing, and it’s something that we are very proud of.” He noted that the company has learned from their abilities to support various programs over the years and building upon experience positioned them to take on programs such as Typhoon. NOLAN said that “Typhoon is the mainstay where we’ve had the M scan for many years – and now we are at that juncture where we are delivering the E-scan radars for Qatar.” He then discussed the decision to move across to e-scan for surveillance, “We took the decision to move across to e-scan for surveillance as e-scan technology was absolutely right for fighter radars and flight control, but it was overkill for the surveillance market and we took that decision to move across probably many years before our competitors did and that’s given us the ability to move forward into the AESA surveillance radar period.” 

Leonardo’s ability to sell into the US market has been an essential part of their success as well.  NOLAN reflected upon this fact and said “A theme that you will find running through our surveillance business and our laser business is that a lot of that success has come from our ability to sell into the US and we are very proud of that because that is a hard thing to do when you’ve got big US companies that have great technology and a fairly protective market in some areas, so for us to crack into that area is a testament to the products that we are able to design and deliver.”

Providing a recap of the evolution from the Seaspray to Osprey radar, NOLAN said “What we’ve done with Osprey as the technology has advanced and allowed us to do better processing, we’ve been able to take some of the modes and methodology from the Seaspray and put it into one genuinely multi-mode radar and that’s Osprey.”        

Their Osprey launch customer was the US Coast Guard. The Osprey features a 360 degree field of view with no moving parts and the exceptional ease of installation.   Providing more examples of Leonardo’s successful sales achievements in the US market, NOLAN discussed the Fire Scout, “Fire Scout was a step up for us, we’ve sold a lot into the US through the US primes, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, CBP, what we did here is feed directly into the US Navy and we beat the competition which was a US radar company head to head in a straight fight to be on a program of record, so that’s a step up for us now into that bigger league in the US business and that’s been hugely successful.”   

A major highlight of the Edinburgh site is the F-35 laser business.  NOLAN provided an updated summary stating “All the lasers are designed and manufactured here for the F35 for the worldwide market.  One of the hidden secrets of Edinburgh is our position as I think the foremost high-power laser supplier to the US – we made the sniper pod, lightning pod lasers for the US and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Customers. We now make the apache lasers, so we’ll see that coming into service in the UK with the next batch of the apache.  Pretty much all the high-powered lasers are designed and made here.  We have a ground-based laser designator which is used by air controllers and special forces and that has been selling in large numbers, also to the US.” 

Providing a quick overview, NOLAN said “DIRCM products that are exported is a Northrop Grumman system, and we’ve made the pointer tracker for that right back to when it was a joint program with the UK back in the 1980s.  

We focused on developing our own fully UK DIRCM – we’ve already made pointer trackers, we’ve already made lasers. We’re a systems-house anyway so it made sense to go off and create a whole new UK product.” NOLAN then introduced Des BALMFORTH, VP Airborne AESA Radar to provide a briefing.   

BALMFORTH set the business context by sharing that his area of focus is where functions, disciplines and elements come together to deliver on business plans, which encompasses the delivering of products, meeting sales targets and addressing profit and loss.

Noting that their surveillance radar business has been growing, BALMFORTH said that “Since its launch in 2016 Osprey has been an important part of that success. As a 2nd generation AESA surveillance radar, Seaspray has been around for quite a while and it will stay in some forms because Seaspray is a great product and we are taking the opportunity that the Osprey gives us to keep that product up to date.  Osprey itself is unique because you can incorporate it into the modeling of the aircraft – you don’t have to have encumbrances that hinder the aircraft. Also, importantly there’s no moving parts in a fixed panel installation, which provides reliability. Clearly, we have a market leadership position in surveillance radar and Osprey is off to a great start.  Since 2016 we had 20 contracts in an excess of 40 systems and over 75 million pounds worth of business and exports to over 5 countries and including most notably the US and that’s not a bad pedigree for a product that’s only been launched in the last couple of years.  Were not stopping there, we continue to invest in the future.  We are using the opportunity that having the Osprey product in the portfolio to update the parts of Seaspray that are becoming obsolete, such as the processor to give that product a longer life.  We’re leveraging the Osprey 30 – a bigger variant the Osprey 50 and we already have a couple of launch customers.   We also plan to fill in other sizes in that portfolio as the market plan becomes apparent.”  

Plans to Double Surveillance Revenues 

Addressing their future targets BALMFORTH said “We will also continue inserting leading edge modes and features into the system so the configurations that we deliver today will be continuously be updated with professional technology insertion through software as it becomes available. All of this is related to our plan to double surveillance revenues over the next couple of years and the majority of that is export led. It’s UK originated technology, so it certainly helps us with exports. It’s designed, integrated and tested and supported from this site. Critical aspects are controlled cradle to grave in this facility, so we can control the quality and the supply of those critical components.”  BALMFORTH introduced Stan HARGREAVES to provide the audience with operational context.

With a background with the Royal Navy, HARGREAVES provided insight into what is done on an operational level, providing feedback to the business from existing customers and making improvements on the product line.  He offered that a demo of the Osprey away from the airshow environment was available upon request and could be arranged.  He discussed how the Osprey is used operationally and noted that they flew about 21sorties at Farnborough this year.  Real video was presented to the audience to demonstrate what is achieved with the new Osprey radar.  

Stating that the traditional mechanical stem radar has a single point of failure can lead to mission failure, HARGREAVES discussed the Osprey from a mechanical, installation and failure perspective.

“In that one scanner you have more than 190 transmitters. If one of them goes down, you will still have an effective radar.  Therefore, you can schedule when you want to change it.  The end user community can actually schedule when they want to do maintenance, they keep the radar going.

Increase mission success

Ease of installation

Meantime between failure (transmitters are very low powered)

On this topic, Brendan NOLAN gave an example from the sales side “We have an example from a customer that came to us 18months ago and bought it because it was easy to install, and it met their needs.  They bought it all, with the modes /features – they were an installer integrator.  Performance was a bonus, but it wasn’t the main driver of the sale.” 

The operational shift in traditional targets was pointed out by HARGREAVES and he posed the question “What is the performance that we need to achieve in today’s threat environment?  We used to look for the big frigate or the big aircraft. That was the environment then, it’s changed as you are all aware. The threat: we are looking for asymmetric small, difficult to detect, slow and could be carrying drugs or people, and over the sea is very difficult.   They are the immediate threat because they can make a big impact. We are trying to move to a low radar cross section, low speed. We have to cater to this and we have to do all of it at the same time with the same radar – because no customer will buy several different platforms for different roles, they need a single platform that can do just about everything – multi mission.”   

The Go-to Multi-Purpose Flight Radar Osprey

Touching on the maritime heritage of Seaspray, HARGREAVES discussed its evolution into the Osprey, saying “it still has all of the other modes as well – we are taking all of that into the Osprey. We’ve taken the really good elements from the PicoSAR - imagery of the land, we wanted to move that in there as well, and also some of the air surveillance characteristics from the Vixen. This is the five iron that you take in your golf bag – to use a golf analogy – every time you want to go flying, take this one, it will do everything.”  They will all do small target detection, e scan, mechanical scanning. The Osprey difference is that it will do 1,000 tracks compare to Seaspray’s 200.  Osprey’s small target capability goes out to 100 nm compared to Seaspray’s 35.  There are some processing improvements, which are the main features of the Osprey.”  HARGREAVES showed images and videos from the NorthSea and walked the audience through ground mapping with STRIP SAR and Osprey ground mapping SPOT SAR, and how it is used to analyze targets in real time highlighting its tactical mini sentinel capability.  MTI – Moving Target Indicator was also mentioned with its ability to detect moving targets over the land, the sea or in the air. HARGREAVES said “there’s no need to call in a strategic asset, you can use MTI. You can observe patterns of life, which is very interesting, such as which roads are being used etc.” 

Unrivalled in Small Target Detection Capability 

Detecting small targets in high sea states is tough and it is very unlikely to find a target with traditional mechanical stem radars. HARGREAVES brought an example to life by taking the audience through an organized trial that clearly demonstrated Osprey’s superior ability to electronically locate a small target. He said “Waves are going over the target. They will go low and look or spin as fast as possible for lots of hits (puts stress on the mechanical scan).  Some of our competitors go over 700 rpm, the gimbal that is spinning around is like a third engine. They try to eliminate the clutter, try to see into the wave.  With the Seaspray and Osprey we are looking at the main beam, electronically we are scanning around and getting multiple hits, as I’m moving either electronically or mechanically, I’m getting multiple hits and it’s the equivalent scan rate is about 5000 rpm.  If you had a mechanical scan radar you would have to spin it around at 5000 rpm to achieve the same effect.  So, with 5000 hits every single time I’m moving it’s very unlikely not to pick up the target, even with the wave going over his head, that’s the operational difference.  With Osprey can continuously do small target mode at 5000 rpm electronically and we don’t have to spin a gimbal.  No need to wait for the gimbal to come around again, we’re doing electronically. The good thing about multiple panels around the aircraft is that you can be looking at something and can instantly switch panels. If you put that into practice, man in the water – real stuff – we can get him before he becomes a casualty.  We can eliminate clutter – the waves, so the operator can focus on the target.  The picture is clear, instantaneous.  We don’t have to wait for the picture build on successive scans.”

 With the ease of installation, reliability, increased chances of mission success HARGREAVES said, “this is the crowned jewel tactical operational capability for seeing the smaller targets, the difficult targets weather they are low speed or high speed with its multimode nature.”  

Audrey BLACK - VP Advanced Targeting DIRCM: “The general size of the business is £ 175 million and with the view of growing that to over £ 250 million within the 5-year plan.”

Providing key elements from a business perspective, Audrey BLACK, VP Advanced Targeting DIRCM discussed export activities and company investments.

Stating that on the Directed Infra-red Counter Measure side, BLACK said “we are the one company in the world with an output an excess of 2,100 pointer trackers from this site – and in fact last month the last legacy small laser transmitter was delivered – from now on we will be concentrating in terms of new production with the DIRCM product that is supplied to the US Army through Northrop Grumman.”  With a focus on the MYSIS DIRCM for the export market, BLACK provided impressive statistics stating that “the general size of the business is £175 million and with a view of growing that to over £250 million within the 5-year plan.” She elaborated and said “Exports to the US up until 5 years ago took up 95% of our advanced targeting business.  We will look at a 60/40 shift in terms of exports to the US and exports to other parts of the world.  It is a real challenging objective for us but one that is absolutely strategic when we develop the MYSIS system for the export market. Previously the legacy equipment has been for larger aircraft and there is importance in developing a system that can be put on smaller and lighter platforms.  MYSIS is readily exportable and that was one of the key parameters that we set for ourselves in our development plan, to make sure that we will be free to market the system – obviously within UK export constraints but not being limited by any other export constraints.” 

Significant Company Investment in Edinburgh Facilities 

Company investment is another key area that BLACK addressed, noting “we have invested in site facilities to ensure that we can meet the market demands. And that’s not only important from an output perspective, it’s actually important in terms of the testing that we can offer from this site, our system integration work and testing our MYSIS system before it leaves the factory to go to other areas such as trials or customers. It is state of the art. The UK authorities have come to witness and actually have used the facility. It is very important to understand the level of investment that the company has made – and we will take you to see that on the tour later this morning.  Investment is key to our success in or laser business as well. That was fundamental. The stepping stone to get to high volume rate output in the advanced targeting business has been company investment in world class facilities, these centers of excellence, as we move forward.”

A briefing on Leonardo’s Directed Infra-Red Counter Measure (DIRCM) Business was given by Dave GOURLAY, Campaign Manager DIRCM. With its significant heritage and unparalleled capability, he shared information on

The production capabilities and test facilities located in Edinburgh and details on the MYSIS DIRCM which is the company’s export DIRCM, such as the development, testing and recent export customer activities.

Beginning with the current threat of MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defence Systems) GOURLAY noted that “traditional flare-based countermeasures are just not effective against the advanced missiles anymore, and that’s why you need to set yourself up with a DIRCM system. What does it do? It locates the target, points at the missile, tracks the missile and fires a high energy laser into the missile that confuses its seeker technology. It directs the missile away from your platform. “GOURLAY showed the audience a live fire video that the UK MOD allowed them to share, demonstrating a test against a multiple number of missiles that were fired at the DIRCM. The video was slow motion of less than 2 and a half seconds that showed the missile making quite large changes to the angle of attack and then the missile crashes into the ground at a substantial miss distance. GOURLAY underscored that to develop a DIRCM takes a very long time and very high levels of expertise, he said “and Leonardo is in an elite club of DIRCM manufacturers.”   

MANPADS Deviate Course in Seconds with the High Power, Multi-Band, Laser DIRCM System

MANPADS have become increasingly resistant to standard countermeasure such as decoy flares and, as such, the most effective defence from MANPADS is to directly attack them with a high power, multi-band, laser DIRCM system. Modern MANPADS can engage low signature threats from any aspect, meaning that DIRCM systems must now provide all-aspect protection. To counter this threat, Leonardo, as a global leader in the development, manufacture and support of airborne laser and electro-optic systems, has developed the MIYSIS DIRCM system, which provides high power, all-aspect protection against modern and legacy threats.

Leonardo, was selected in 1995 as the supplier of the DIRCM pointer/trackers for the AN/AAQ-24(V) System, which began working with the UK MoD on the development of the DIRCM in the late 1980’s. From the outset over 2,400 combat-proven DIRCM pointer/trackers of various types have been built in Edinburgh and deployed on over 50 aircraft types. Leonardo is still continuing to team up with Northrop Grumman on the next generation of DIRCM for the US Army-Led Tri Service Common Infra-Red Counter Measure (DIRCM) program.

The MIYSIS DIRCM has a high power, multi-band laser that delivers accurate rapid-jamming energy to defeat advanced IR MANPADS threats. Leonardo’s DIRCM baseline version is comprised of a compact twin-head Integrated Laser/Pointer Tracker, cockpit interface unit, electronic unit and total weight & power unit are about 37.6 kilograms (DIRCM Laser/Point tracker is merely about 15 kg), and it is smaller, lighter and draws less power than other DIRCM systems on the market. It works by accurately locating and tracking an inbound missile and then shining a high-powered laser onto the missile’s targeting sensors, confusing the missile and directing it away from the aircraft or helicopter. The two jamming heads can hand over threats from one to another to provide seamless spherical coverage. With sometimes less than 2.5 seconds to defeat a MANPADS threat, the MIYSIS relies on cueing from a missile warning system such as Thales, ELIX-IR multi-function Threat Warning System (TWS), 

The MIYSIS DIRCM System very quickly tracks (dry shots) and jams (wet shots), every threat declared by the Missile Warning System and also the DIRCM laser pointer are effective at both short and long range.

With its modular open architecture design, MIYSIS also allows integration with in-service missile approach warning and EW self-protection systems. MIYSIS DIRCM has the capability to jam Generation 1, 2- and 3-Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) using NATO jam codes. MIYSIS is suitable for use on a wide range of air platforms, from small helicopters to large wide-bodied transport aircraft. The MIYSIS DIRCM system has market-leading size, weight and power characteristics with no compromise of its proven self-protection jamming capability. The design utilizes the latest open architecture concepts, which allows it to be installed on an aircraft as a stand-alone DIRCM or integrated as part of a Defensive Aids System. 

According to the company executives, Leonardo has commenced the delivery of the MIYSIS DIRCM to the Royal Canadian Air Force for use on its CP-140 ISR/ASW Aurora aircraft recently. In addition, Hensoldt company selected MIYSIS DIRCM as part of the Helsoldt Airborne Missile Protection System (AMPS) program and integration activities are already underway. In pursuit of these achievements, a non-disclosed Middle East country has become the latest customer for Leonardo’s new MIYSIS DIRCM system as well according to the contract deliveries of hardware have already commenced. 

On the 10th of October, Leonardo and Thales announced that their end-to-end missile warning and protection system has been proven highly effective in live-fire scenarios, demonstrating the system’s ability to very quickly defend against inbound missiles. The integrated system was demonstrated as part of the SALT (Surface-to-Air Launch Trial) hosted by the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) in Sweden. During the live-fire exercises, when an Infra-Red (IR) missile was fired at a ground target protected by the Leonardo-Thales system, the ELIX-IR system detected, tracked, classified and declared the missile as a threat and rapidly passed an alert over to the MIYSIS system. MIYSIS then tracked the incoming threat and accurately directed a jamming laser onto the missile’s seeker. MIYSIS used a DSTL developed jamming waveform to confuse the missile’s guidance system, steering the missile away from the target. The latest-generation protective system consisted of a Leonardo MIYSIS Directed Infra-Red Counter-Measure (DIRCM) system and Thales ELIX-IR multi-function Threat Warning System (TWS), integrated through Leonardo’s Defensive Aids Suite (DAS) Controller.

Leonardo is a global leader in the development, manufacture and support of airborne laser and electro-optic pointing and stabilization systems for over 40 years. To date the company has delivered over 4,000 airborne laser & electro-optic systems such as the JSF electro-optical targeting system, Lockheed Martin Sniper Targeting Pod, Northrop Grumman Litening Targeting Pod and Apache Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight (M-TADS) to international customers.

After the briefing, attendees examined the DIRCM assembly line and test laboratory. Representatives gave a briefing in front of the Compact Antenna Test Range (CATR) and SIL (System Integration LAB)