Leonardo - Credible Partner for Turkey’s Ambitious Industrial and Technological Growth Strategy

In this exclusive Defence Turkey interview, Leonardo’s Mr. Giovanni Soccodato, Executive VP Strategy Market and Business Development discusses the company’s success as an international player, their expertise in technology transfer and their focus on staying attuned to national requirements of its customers. Mutual benefit between Italy and Turkey founded on trust and good industrial relations has paved the way for a solid future

Issue 74

Defence Turkey: Mr. Soccodato first of all could you please inform us about your strategies and future plans for the Turkish Market?

Commercial and industrial presence and strengthening of technological partnerships with Turkish Companies are the pillars behind Leonardo’s strategy in Turkey. Our priority is to further improve the existing strategic cooperation with the Turkish Defense industry also involving the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). We want to invest together with Turkish Companies not only for returns in the domestic market, but also to jointly challenge new foreign markets. 

We have recently rationalized our commercial presence in the Country through the concentration of all our activities in the Leonardo office in Ankara. The new organization will allow the main Turkish stakeholders to have a single counterpart and will grant the implementation of an integrated commercial strategy that will enable us to pursue, in a wider context, the main business opportunities offered by the Country. In addition, we intend to strengthen our industrial presence through support to Selex ES Elektronik S.A, which has been operating in the Country for over 30 years.

Defence Turkey: What is your assessment of the Leonardo partnership performance with various Turkish companies over the years?

Leonardo considers Turkey as a main technological partner rather than a sales market. To this end, the Group is implementing important programs with the major Turkish industries, and it is important to remember the involvement of many Turkish SMEs these programs and in the projects we develop in the Country. The result of this collaboration is definitely positive, taking into account the high technological complexity of the activities jointly developed. The criticalities that have emerged in some cases have always been overcome in a mutual trusting way.

The “Atak” program is the most known example of a fruitful collaboration: the T129 is a formidable multi-role combat helicopter, based on the combat-proven AW129, developed by TAI, with the key contribution of Leonardo Helicopters and Aselsan, for Turkey and it is also suitable for the export market.

Whereas the most recent success has been signed with the Göktürk program, for which our joint venture Telespazio (Leonardo 67%, Thales 33%) is the prime contractor and integrator of the system, delivering the ground station that includes mission control capabilities, orbital satellite management, and data acquisition and processing systems. The Göktürk-1 satellite was successfully launched on Dec 5, 2016 and is now operated by the Turkish Air Force. 

Defence Turkey: Due to your off-set obligations in Turkey, could you please share with us a bit about the accomplished commitments up to date? What are your future plans to enhance this partnership in Turkey? 

Leonardo is an international player attuned to answer national requirements of its customers and has developed and consolidated business models and an expertise in technology transfer that guarantee the maximum return to its customers. We have a track record of successful programs developed in Turkey, which include technology transfer, industrial partnerships, commercial agreements as well as the fulfilment of offset obligations. We therefore believe we can be a credible partner for Turkey’s industrial and technological growth strategy from security to advanced electronics and defense.

Defence Turkey: Leonardo intends to be involved in Liaison and the General Utility Aircraft tender in Turkey with the Spartan C-27J aircraft. Could you please elaborate on the outstanding features and your approach to this project?

The Turkish Land Forces and the Turkish Police are looking for new assets needed to enhance their mobility and capability to support critical operations, but at the same time flexible enough to be used also for operations to support humanitarian crises, Medical Evacuation Missions (MEDEVAC) and also capable of VIP and passenger transport.

These requirements may appear simple at first, but a cargo aircraft that could have been considered satisfactory for those roles just 5 years ago, today would be in trouble if used in real operations.

We strongly believe that the best solution for the Country is Leonardo C-27J because, among the others, it has been designed, developed and tested as a military aircraft, and also has obtained civil certification from EASA / FAA in 2010.  

An important evaluation point for a new GMU aircraft will be the capability of the aircraft to operate in true operational scenario: Turkey does not need just a “cargo” but a highly cost effective aircraft, capable of being quickly reconfigured to perform a high number of alternative missions, while retaining its primary role of tactical airlifter. Moreover, it is the only one that can grant interoperability with heavier airlifters like the C-130 and the A400M, as it can carry the standard 463L pallets at full capability. Vehicles can be unloaded from heavier airlifters, loaded on the C-27J and delivered straight to the frontline and austere forward operating bases without repackaging, dismounting parts or deflating tires, increasing safety and mission success.

The Spartan has an unrivalled ability to perform short take-offs and landings (STOL) on snowy, sandy and unprepared airfields. And it is certified to do so. Compared with other military transport aircraft in its class, the C-27J has the best descent and climb rate (4000 and 2,500 ft/min) and can also perform 3 g tactical manoeuvres, minimizing its approach phase and reaching a safe altitude more quickly in high threat scenarios.

The Spartan is qualified for extreme temperature conditions and it is capable of carrying its load in very hot and high conditions as already demonstrated in real operations.

One fundamental feature of the C-27J is its APU, Auxiliary Power Unit, that make the aircraft fully autonomous in operations, also when deployed on remote, austere airfields (important for both the Land Forces and the Police) or when involved in disaster relief operations in hard hit areas, where ground infrastructure and equipment could be damaged or not available. The aircraft’s APU (Auxiliary Power Unit), is fundamental also for flight safety as it can restart the engines in flight or be used as an alternate source of power in case of a problem with an engine. To summarize, the C-27J goes faster, farther, heavier and safer. In total, 82 airplanes have been ordered so far.

Defence Turkey: TAI and BAE Systems are signed a head of agreement contract at the beginning of the year. As we are aware, Leonardo is eager to be involved in this program with the wide range of critical systems. Could you please share some details about your activities?

Thanks to its multinational roots and extensive international program experience, Leonardo can leverage deep ties with all major international aeronautical primes. With BAE Systems, we share a successful story that spans five decades of breakthrough programs from the British trainer Hawk to European programs like Tornado and Eurofighter where our collaboration covered the airframe, sensors and on board electronics up to the training element. We also take pride in the partnership established with the Turkish leading company TAI, that evolved from a supply contract into an industrial and commercial partnership that is starting to produce its results on the export markets. More importantly, this collaboration has allowed Leonardo and TAI to develop positive personal relations across the organizations and has given us a better understanding of the Turkish working environment, mind-set and industrial ambitions. With this background and our world leading products and technologies, we believe Leonardo has all the credentials to be involved in any aeronautical program that will be launched by the Turkish government.

Defence Turkey: We know that Leonardo Helicopters have been in the Turkish Helicopter Market for many years, what are your plans for Future?

Leonardo Helicopter Division has a long-lasting collaboration in Turkey dating back to the 1970s with various helicopter models. As of today, with TAI as the prime contractor and Leonardo being a key partner in the ATAK program, twenty one T129s have been delivered to the Turkish Land Forces. The success of the T129 Program is very valuable for us and offers significant export potential.

Beyond the T129 Program, we are very keen to continue working together with our Turkish Partners for further collaboration to meet the Turkish End Users requirements with our comprehensive product range.

Defence Turkey: Selex ES Turkey, a subsidiary of Leonardo has been conducting activities in Turkey for many years but it has been observed that the performance of this facility has not been sufficient for quite some time. Do you have any plan for Selex ES Turkey to become a hub to reach out to new markets?

For almost three decades, we have been operating in Turkey with a locally established operating company, Selex ES Elektronik S.A. The company is focused mostly on the development and delivery of communications systems, as well as in the support to contracts secured in Turkey across a wide range of applications, including the new Air Traffic Control (ATC) system acquired by Turkey’s General Directorate of State Airports (DHMI), a key milestone in Turkey’s SMART project (Systematic Modernisation of ATM Resources Turkey), and the new Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS), installed in Izmir.

Leonardo’s industrial plan, launched in 2015, set down clear guidelines and objectives in terms of performance and quality improvement, and this also affected Selex ES Elektronik S.A. In recent years, the company has significantly grown all its KPIs and we are confident we will be able to leverage its potential as a hub to promote our integrated capabilities as well as a base to develop new commercially attractive technologies and products for the export markets, together with local industries. 

Defence Turkey: Turkey already possesses its indigenous Tactical and MALE Class UAV Systems and these systems are already combat proven. Within the light of these achievements, are you open to the suggestion of joint development or different business models with Turkey?

Remotely Piloted Air Systems (RPAS) are the frontier of technological innovation in security and defense and the results that Turkey has achieved are remarkable. Leonardo is the European company with the widest and deepest understanding of RPAS systems, including the platform, the sensors, mission systems, ground segment and training elements. This understanding is based on proprietary market proven technologies and products and increased through the involvement in all major international UAV programs. In the light of this, we believe we can be a natural candidate for future collaborations on unmanned technologies with the Turkish government.

Defence Turkey: Turkey and Italy have accomplished a successful partnership within the ATAK program as well as the fact that Italy has fulfilled the commitment of technology transfer in this program. Thanks to this heritage, will you keep same approach for the up-coming potential joint programs?

Leonardo is assessing the possibility of additional cooperation areas based on the good results already achieved so far in the ATAK program, and it is looking at other opportunities for the whole family of new generation helicopters (the AW169, AW139 and AW189 types) and the AW101 to meet a variety of operational requirements. Surely, the same approach can be evaluated for other programs, in the Aeronautics sector, for example. As already highlighted, we strongly believe in the value we can share with Turkish industry, and in a win-win approach on which to base the roots of new partnerships.

Defence Turkey: As it is well known that former OTO Melara made sound achievements in naval projects in Turkey. Could you please inform us about activities performed over the years in Turkey? What is your approach to the new naval projects like MILGEM 5-8, TF-2000 (Anti-Air Warfare Frigate) and Turkish Type Fast Patrol Boat? 

Almost 30 OTO 40L70 Twin Compact naval guns have been delivered:

9 Kılıç FPB, 16 Tuzla class patrol boats of TN while the Coast Guard has also adopted it on four of their search and rescue units. Another version of Leonardo 40mm naval guns, the Single 40L70 Fast Forty is currently being delivered to the Turkish Navy for its four LST ships. Leonardo Defense Systems (gathering former OTO Melara and WASS) also completed the supply of six 30mm guns to equip the Aydin class minehunters.

As for the new Turkish Navy programs, the OTO 76/62 Super Rapid Multi-feeding has been selected for the MILGEM – I (5 to 8), meanwhile an option for the STRALES system operating the DART guided ammunition is also under evaluation. The 76/62 Super Rapid Multi-feeding with STRALES option is proposed for the new Turkish Type Fast Patrol Boats, which is targeting the acquisition of up to ten units. For the TF-2000 program, Leonardo is promoting the OTO 127/64 LW. In this project, Leonardo is facing the BAE Mk45 5” gun, which is already in service on board the eight Yavuz and Barbaros frigates. In this competition, Leonardo is leveraging the capability to operate 127mm Vulcano Guided Ammunition, the sole available technology capable of achieving such performance in extended range and pinpoint accuracy.

Defence Turkey: Lastly, are there any remarks that you would like to share with the readers of Defence Turkey Magazine?

Leonardo’s success in Turkey is the result of a commercial model that effectively understood and responded to the ambition of the Country to develop an autonomous Defense Industry. 

This model has been able to recognize the high level of abilities and skills of the local Industry and to support its technological growth through a concrete transfer of technology, and was undoubtedly fundamental to the cooperation for the development of the ATAK helicopter and more recently for the satellite Göktürk-1.  Based on these references, we expect new opportunities of cooperation which will, once again, benefit from both good industrial relations and trust between our Countries.