Le Bourget. 22 June 2017. Leonardo has signed a contract with the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) worth in excess of 290 million Euros. The contract will see Leonardo and HENSOLDT, working together as ‘Team Skytale’, upgrade the IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) technology on more than 350 of the UK’s operational aircraft, naval vessels and ground-based air defence systems to the latest ‘Mode-5’ standard. IFF technology is central to all military operations as it acts as a modernday ‘challenge and response’ password system based on automated electronic signals.

This ensures that forces can recognise friends, which when contacted will reply with the correct signal, and identify potentially hostile vehicles which will not. All NATO nations are mandated to switch to the new Mode-5 standard IFF by 2020, which uses advanced cryptographic techniques to secure the systems against electronic deception by adversaries. This is important when forces are operating together because ensuring that ground, air and naval crews can reliably recognise their allies is one of the main ways of avoiding so-called ‘friendly fire’ incidents.

Under the contract, Leonardo and HENSOLDT will upgrade legacy UK aircraft, naval vessels and ground-based air-defence systems with an out-of-service date after 2020, which covers 11 aircraft types (managed by Leonardo), 18 naval vessel types and 2 land-based platform types (managed by HENSOLDT). The team will also establish a Mode-5 IFF support hub in the UK. In addition to NATO forces, other nations which want to conduct operations alongside NATO countries will also need to upgrade to the Mode-5 IFF standard.

To address this requirement, Leonardo has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with HENSOLDT to offer IFF upgrade solutions to customers around the world. Under the agreement, the two companies will offer their combined IFF product portfolios to offer a flexible approach that can be tailored to the needs of different international customers. For the UK upgrade, the team will provide Leonardo’s M428 Transponder and SIT 2010 cryptographic computer and HENSOLDT’s MSSR 2000 I® and MSR 1000 I Interrogator. Notably, the team offers the only source of cryptography key generation technology available outside of the United States, providing an entirely-European source of Mode 5 IFF capability. Because of this European design and manufacture,

 Mode 5 IFF technology offered by the Leonardo/HENSOLDT team is readily exportable. Together, Leonardo and HENSOLDT are Europe’s leading provider of Mode-5 IFF solutions. Leonardo has previously delivered Mode 5 IFF for the UK Royal Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoons the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. Leonardo also provides Mode 5 IFF technology for the new Saab Gripen-E fighter and has recently demonstrated innovative reverse IFF (air-to-ground) capabilities on Italian Typhoon aircraft.

The company is also currently studying this new capability for the future Eurofighter as part of a UK MoD technology demonstrator programme. HENSOLDT is under contract to upgrade German, French, US and other armed forces’ platforms with Mode 5 IFF systems. Among others, the company’s IFF equipment is deployed on all German Navy ships as well as several UK Royal Navy ships. HENSOLDT has also established the air traffic control/IFF network of the German Air Force.