FARNBOROUGH NEWS: U.K. Air Force Touts Tech Partnerships for Air Defense System
FARNBOROUGH, United Kingdom — To address the growing threat from modern anti-aircraft missiles, the Royal Air Force is developing new air defense systems that will fly on aircraft as early as 2023.
The next-generation air survivability, or NGAS, will combine the technologies of three defense companies to protect aircraft from high-level threats, said Air Vice-Marshal Lincoln Taylor, chief of staff for capability, during a press conference at the Farnborough International Airshow. The self-protection systems will be integrated onto existing aircraft.
"Digitalization, not only of modern advanced air defense systems, but the digitalization of all systems, means these things are becoming not only ever more lethal, they are also becoming ever more unpredictable,” he said.
Leonardo U.K, France-based Thales and U.K.-based Chemring Countermeasures are building software for the NGAS that could be deployed on any aircraft across the fleet, Taylor said.
The collaborators, called “Team Pellonia” are already on contract to add their systems on Boeing’s E-7 Wedgetail Early Warning System and the Shadow surveillance aircraft developed by Raytheon. The Shadow will fly with the system by 2023.
Leonardo is contributing its modular advanced platform protection, while all three companies are developing different countermeasures and warning systems. Depending on the different needs of each aircraft, countermeasures can be mixed and matched, according to the air force.
Developing the system is critical to the service because adversary air defense platforms, such as man-portable air defense systems, are proliferating across the globe.
Taylor played a viral video of a Ukrainian forces taking down a Mi-24 Russian helicopter using an anti-air missile.
“Things go wrong really, really quickly against this sort of threat,” he said. “Ultimately, it's about making sure that video doesn't happen to our folks.”
The threats in Ukraine are similar to the ones that Thales, Leonardo and Chemring have been looking at for years, Taylor pointed out.
“I hope we never go to war against Russia, but we will face their systems. We will face their systems that they export to other nations,” he said.
The air force is working with the U.K.’s Defence Science Technology Laboratory to help industry better understand the threat, said Matt Chinn, head of orbital systems at the organization. More than 60 percent of the work that he has done in the last year was completed through partnerships with companies large and small, he said.
The service will need the combined efforts of every company to meet the ambitious goal of protecting all airframes across all missions, he said.
“It's far better to set out from a common standpoint,” he said.
In addition to collaboration, a spiral approach that builds capability on top of capability will help speed the process up compared to programs that take 10 years to reach initial capability, Taylor explained.
“We need to be more agile than that in the face of the threats we face,” he said.