Leonardo to Leverage Helo Knowledge in New 42-Partner Defense Program

By S.L. Fuller | January 16, 2018
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Leonardo's Hero unmanned aircraft system. Photo courtesy of Leonardo

Leonardo is planning to use its experience with helicopters, autonomous systems, weapons systems and communications solutions to lead a European Defence Fund initiative. The Italian manufacturer said Jan. 12 it had been awarded a project under the framework of OCEAN2020, a European Union program.

The OCEAN2020 team of 42 partners comprises industry, research bodies and defense ministries of five countries: Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Lithuania, with additional support from the Ministries of Defence of Sweden, France, the U.K, Estonia and the Netherlands. OCEAN2020 looks to boost technological research in the naval domain and foster the integration of unmanned platforms in surveillance and interdiction missions, according to Leonardo.


The Italian Navy plans to contribute to development of operational scenarios, and its helicopters and other assets are to be used in demonstrations.

Along with its variety of partners, OCEAN2020 should also host a variety of solutions. Leonardo said fixed-wing, rotary-wing, surface and underwater unmanned platforms would be involved, integrated with naval units’ command and control centers. This would allow for data exchange via satellite, with command and control centers on land. According to Leonardo, the joint and cooperative use of both manned and unmanned vehicles will also be demonstrated as part of the project.

“It is the leading technological research project dedicated to the very topical issue of maritime surveillance, which is of interest across Europe and to the Mediterranean region in particular,” said Alessandro Profumo, CEO of Leonardo.

The first operational demonstration is planned for 2019 in the Mediterranean Sea. Leonardo said it would involve Leonardo’s Hero and Solo unmanned helicopters, naval vessels and systems from a number of partners, including Italian Navy’s vessels equipped with Leonardo’s systems.

The second demonstration is planned for 2020 in the Baltic Sea. Leonardo said that would be coordinated by the Swedish Navy. Various systems would collect data, which would then be processed and sent to a prototype European command and control center in Brussels.

According to Leonardo, OCEAN2020 is the “first” example of a cross-European military research program. The manufacturer said it led the bid, which required a thorough analysis of operational requirements and a “technologically innovative yet operationally realistic proposal.” The competitive tender was conducted by the European Defence Agency. Leonardo said it would be contracted in the coming weeks.

OCEAN2020 also plans to involve two live demonstrations of maritime surveillance and interdiction operations, conducted by European fleets using unmanned aircraft, surface vessels and underwater systems, Leonardo said.

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