Leonardo has won a £115m contract will create a ‘flying electronics laboratory’ to develop future combat air technology in the UK.
This will see a Boeing 757 completely overhauled and turned into a flight test aircraft to test some of the innovative technology that could be deployed on the fighter jet being developed by the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) with Italy and Japan to develop a new combat aircraft for 2035.
The contract was awarded to Leonardo of Italy to launch the next stage of the Excalibur Flight Test Aircraft (FTA) project. This is a key element of the UK’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS) that could include the crewed fighter and a broader range of capabilities such as uncrewed aircraft, information systems and weapon systems.
The Excalibur aircraft will be adapted to host integrated sensors, digital technology and integrated communications. This aircraft is expected to fly with the new technology within the next three years, when on-board scientists and engineers will test the sensors and communications systems whilst in flight.
The aircraft is designed in Yorkshire and built in Hampshire with the concepts conceived by Leonardo in Bedfordshire and 2Excel in Northamptonshire.
“This contract is a major milestone for the FTA project and demonstrates our commitment in support of the UK Future Combat Air System. I’m excited that this work will enable us to test, in a live flying environment, some of the highly advanced technology that could feature on the aircraft being developed by GCAP,” said Richard Berthon, MOD Director for Future Combat Air.