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.
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.