Leonardo has been awarded the latest in a series of contracts with UK-based aviation services company 2Excel to begin the next phase of the Tempest Flight Testing Program (FTA). The show will see partners perform comprehensive overhauls of a commercial aircraft, transforming it into a flight laboratory for combat flight technology.
On board, scientists and engineers will test futuristic sensors and communications for the Future Combat Air System that the UK and its international partners are developing for service in 2035.
It was called ‘Excalibur’ in honor of the legendary sword of King Arthur, The aircraft is modified to complement the transformative “digital first” approach that Team Tempest partners take to testing and evaluating Tempest’s next-generation electronics.
Excalibur will provide the real-world environment necessary for the later stages of development of the complex and integrated sensors, non-kinetic effects and communications that Leonardo is developing. Excalibur will be available to international partners To eliminate the risks of technology being developed for the Future Combat Air System, the aircraft can also be used to complement the development of unmanned technology, including serving as a control center for the unmanned platforms under test.
This latest contract is based on two years of work by Leonardo and 2Excel in the concept and design phase of the FTA. That phase saw the partners assess the suitability of the commercial aircraft as a test bed and digitally model some of the proposed modifications, including significant changes to the nose section. The new contract covers preparations for the actual aircraft acquired by 2Excel and will allow development work to continue apace.
Leonardo, one of the founding members of the Tempest team, is a pioneer in integrated detection and non-kinetic effects, As well as an integrated communication system. The company has successfully worked with 2Excel for many years, using the aviation specialist’s philosophy of “getting the hard stuff right” to test advanced electronics such as radar and electronic warfare equipment. This close working relationship allowed Leonardo and 2Excel to develop the FTA in line with the more flexible and transformative approach of the broader programme, which aims to halve the cost and time required to build a combat aircraft.
In addition to its primary function, serving as a test bed for the team and significantly reducing program risk, Excalibur is also expected to be used in other UK and international flight test programmes.
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