Military

Leonardo DRS Sees Future in Survivability Systems

By Frank Wolfe | May 29, 2019
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Leonardo DRS received a nearly $35 million contract last December for the installation of DAIRCM on 30 Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters (U.S. Air Force Photo)

Leonardo DRS has developed a suite of aircraft survivability systems that the company believes represent a significant growth area.

"The survivability piece is relatively fresh and growing,” Bill Lynn, CEO of Leonardo DRS, said in a May 28 phone interview. Lynn is a former U.S. Defense Department controller and deputy defense secretary and a longtime industry executive who has headed Leonardo DRS since 2012.

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Counter unmanned aircraft systems are in the company's quiver. Since 2017, Leonardo DRS has received U.S. Army development and production contracts for the Mobile Low, Slow Unmanned Aircraft Integrated Defense System (MLIDS), including a nearly $75 million contract in February.

In addition, Leonardo DRS' survivability business received a boost after the company's 2017 acquisition of the San Diego-based Daylight Solutions, a leader in quantum cascade laser (QCL) technology. The latter generates laser emission through the direct conversion of electricity into infrared radiation in contrast to legacy solid-state lasers that need several frequency conversion stages in order to generate emission in the IR, which leads to size, weight, power and reliability deficiencies, according to Leonardo DRS. The military has used gas and solid-state lasers since the 1960s.

QCLs provide "size, weight, and power improvements and let you bring protection suites onto lighter weight helicopters," Lynn said.

Leonardo DRS has used quantum cascade laser technology in its design for the Distributed Aperture Infrared Countermeasures (DAIRCM) system for Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk combat search-and-rescue helicopters and Navy MH-60 Sea Knight helicopters, both by Sikorsky.

The U.S. Army Common Infrared Countermeasures System (CIRCM) for that service's rotorcraft also uses quantum cascade technology. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for CIRCM, while Leonardo DRS builds the Solaris laser for the system.

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