Leonardo at RIAT 2019

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From 19-21 July 2019, Leonardo supported the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) hosted at RAF Fairford, playing a central role in the STEM Techno Zone. Several Leonardo aircraft, including the Typhoon, M346 and C-27J flew over the weekend, while all of them, along with the Royal Navy's AW159 Wildcat and AW101 Merlin, both made by Leonardo, were on static display.

Over the past 100 years, Leonardo has designed and built some of the UK’s most iconic aircraft and developed a range of sensors that help guide them on their missions, identify their targets and protect them against incoming threats.

This is only possible because of the skills and passion of the talented people who choose to work with us.

At this year’s RIAT Techno Zone, visitors met some of our young engineers, hearing why they chose a career in STEM and learning about some of the technology behind many of the aircraft on display, through our hands-on interactive activities including:

  • Wind table – discover the principals behind our helicopters by designing your own rotor blades and watch them hover over our wind table (as long as their weight, aerodynamic properties and wind remain stable!).
  • Thermal camera – take a selfie using our thermal imaging technology behind many military night vision systems and now being used to capture amazing footage on nature programmes such as Planet Earth 2, Dynasties and Springwatch.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) Typhoon Challenge – use our VR headset to move around a virtual Typhoon to locate and remove all aircraft safety devices, checking for any Foreign Object Debris to ensure the aircraft is ready for take-off in less than three minutes.
  • Super-Senses – test your senses against our sensor technology developed to inform airplane and helicopter pilots on operations around the world. You have a few seconds to spot the vital data that is critical to the success of your mission!

Throughout the RIAT weekend, more than 35 planes and helicopters from around the world – including several that Leonardo manufactures or significantly contributes to – took part in incredible flying displays.

RAF Typhoon Display Team

Piloted by RAF Typhoon Display Team pilot Flight Lieutenant Jim Peterson, the aircraft once again wowed crowds with its incredible agility and awesome power on throughout the RIAT weekend. Leonardo provides over 60% of the Typhoon’s avionics and is incredibly proud to sponsor the RAF Typhoon Display Team.

Frecce Tricolori Display Team

Using Leonardo-manufactured MB-339 trainer aircraft, the Italian Air Force’s Frecce Tricolori Display Team – the world's largest military aerobatic team – was back at RIAT this year, amazing crowds with their daring displays. The ten-strong team flew on the Saturday and Sunday.

C-27J Spartan

Leonardo’s C-27J Spartan aircraft – the world’s most effective multi-mission medium turboprop airlifter – flew throughout the weekend at RIAT, and was also on static display.

JAS-39C Gripen

The Swedish Air Force’s Gripen combat aircraft showcased its power and maneuverability during the Saturday and Sunday flying displays, and it was on static display. Leonardo’s association with the Gripen programme dates back to 2009, since when the aircraft has been equipped with several of the company’s radars, sensors and avionics systems.

More than 80 fixed-wing and rotary aircraft were on display in the static area during RIAT, including the Royal Navy's twin-engine multi-mission AW159 Wildcat and multi-role AW101 Merlin helicopters.

Leonardo's M-346FA aircraft was also at RIAT. This version is the evolution of the M-346 Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT), which is designed to meet – with a high performance platform – an increasingly wide range of customer operational needs. In the current operational scenarios, especially those with a low-medium threat level, the trend of modern Air Forces is to reduce the number and types of aircraft in their inventories for logistic and economic reasons. As a consequence, modern and expensive 20/30 tons class fighter-bombers are employed in the CAS/COIN role, taking-off with just 2 tons of weapons, thus rapidly eroding their fatigue life.

The M-346FA is a radar-equipped multi-role light fighter and represents a highly cost-effective, tactical solution for the modern battlefield. At the same time it keeps all the attributes of the M-346AJT, including the Embedded Tactical Training Simulation (ETTS) suite. This enables the M-346FA to still be used as an Advanced Jet Trainer, Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT), to offer the whole spectrum of simulated training functions in flight and to be integrated in the fully validated M-346 Integrated Training System (ITS) with Live, Virtual, Constructive (LVC) capabilities. Aggressor and Companion Training roles can also be carried out effectively. This ensures maximum efficiency, effectiveness, commonality, operational flexibility and combat training capabilities to the Air Forces.

Just outside the Techno Zone, visitors had the chance to sit in the Team Tempest concept aircraft. As part of Team Tempest, Leonardo is developing the aircraft’s advanced sensors, electronics and avionics, working alongside the UK Ministry of Defence, the Royal Air Force's Rapid Capability Office, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and MBDA to provide the technologies, knowledge, skills and expertise to develop a Next Generation Combat Air System capable of operating in the 2040+ environment.

Falcon Shield is a rapidly deployable, scalable and modular system designed to address the threat from low, slow and small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Its easily configurable system enables highly accurate detection, tracking, identification, geo-location and mitigation of the UAV threat through a complimentary, fully integrated suite of sensors and threat management effectors.

The system was successfully deployed by the Royal Air Force in December 2018, when Gatwick Airport had to close temporarily due to an unconfirmed sighting of a drone.