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ANALYSIS: How Leonardo's UK transformation will pay dividends

Little more than six months after implementing a "one company" structure in the UK, Leonardo MW is seeing clear benefits from the new way of working, says chief executive Norman Bone.

Previously, the numerous operations working beneath holding company Finmeccanica meant there would be "multiple opinions on the same subject", Bone says. Fully operational since 1 January, having combined the UK activities of its AgustaWestland, DRS Technologies, Finmeccanica and Selex ES units, Leonardo MW can now approach customers offering a "more end-to-end solution", he notes.

"We really needed to look at the way we operated, and how we partnered," Bone says. Pointing to budgetary constraints facing military customers and the need to quickly provide more complex capabilities, he says the relationship has shifted towards increased risk-sharing and joint development.

Examples include a new Eurofighter Typhoon in-service support model being delivered with BAE Systems for the Royal Air Force, dubbed Tytan, which aims to reduce costs by 30-40%.

"We talked about each others' problems, challenges and opportunities, and found a way to build a relationship with the end user, the Ministry of Defence and ourselves. That's allowed a massive saving, greater efficiencies, greater productivity for the aircraft, and the air force to recycle money back into capability," the Leonardo official says.

The new arrangement also draws on Leonardo's experience gained via the Italian air force's Eurofighter support model, dubbed CMA.

Overall, Tytan is expected to save the RAF more than £550 million ($727 million), with efficiencies coming from increased service intervals and improved monitoring and fault prediction, which will result in avionics boxes being removed from aircraft less frequently.

One potential area of capital reinvestment for the UK is an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, being developed for the Eurofighter programme's partners.

The UK has had a long interest in introducing new radar technology with additional capabilities, specifically in the electronic-attack domain, and previously studied the potential integration of an AESA array with the RAF's Panavia Tornado GR4s via an effort named Reforger.

"The nations are still debating it," Bone says of the Typhoon's planned Captor-E enhancement, for which the UK is the lead advocate. "The debate is: do the partners want to go that way now, or in the future?"

Another focus area for Leonardo MW centres on safeguarding rotorcraft manufacturing at its Yeovil site in Somerset.

Discussions around a rotary-wing unmanned air system (RWUAS) programme are ongoing, linked to the company's strategic partnering arrangement with the MoD.

"We are now having an engagement that is thinking about things in a very different way, and showing greater opportunity," Bone says, describing a RWUAS platform as "definitely one of the key futures" for the company's helicopter activities in the UK. "I think it will be wider than a navy application – whether that's with the UK or other countries," he adds.

Leonardo Helicopters chief executive Daniele Romiti last month said that the company could transfer production of its AW149 to the UK, should the type be selected to meet the nation's future military medium-lift requirement.

"I'm not overly concerned at this stage," Bone says of Yeovil. "We're working really well with the government and the MoD to develop that future capability strategy. It's up to us to fill the time between with great exports."

He describes the AW159 Wildcat as a "phenomenal offering", with the UK having a "tremendous opportunity list" around the world. Developed for the British Army and Royal Navy, the type has so far secured two international sales for a combined 10 examples, from the Philippines and South Korea.

Production of the AW101 is also continuing in the UK, including for a Norwegian search and rescue programme. Bone also expects the company to be involved in some capacity as the UK introduces a new fleet of Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.

Other examples of Leonardo MW's new business approach include its involvement in the MoD's rapid capabilities office structure. This led to it demonstrating its BriteCloud active decoy, which will be available for operational use with the RAF's Tornado GR4s before the end of this year.

It also teamed with MBDA and Qinetiq for a maritime laser directed-energy weapon technology demonstration programme named Dragonfire, where the partners shared investment and risk. He notes that if a procurement follows, "We get 30% of something, rather than 100% of nothing", by competing alone.

Another example was Leonardo's pursuit of a Mode 5 interrogation friend-or-foe system contract to equip more than 350 types of aircraft, ship and land vehicle for the UK military. It faced stiff competition from a Raytheon/Thales team and the now-Hensoldt; formerly Airbus Defence & Space's electronics division.

"We started clearly as third favourite, but we looked at a very different commercial model, not at putting through our own product," Bone says. After Hensoldt opted to exit the contest, Leonardo joined forces with its former rival as Team Skytale, and won the deal.

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