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EMPAR is one of the first multifunctional naval radars produced in the world and the first of this type made by Selenia. At the forefront of today's production lines, EMPAR began its development at the end of the Seventies and saw its first production and industrialisation in the historic Fusaro factory (Naples) at the end of the Eighties. Its subsequent developments will lead to the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) technology underlying the current KRONOS radars.

In the late 1980s, the imminent opening up of markets made it necessary for Finmeccanica to carry out a new series of acquisitions primarily to increase the competitive strength of its business, which by then had to compete in the international sphere. In little more than a decade, the company progressively established itself as Italy’s largest hub in the Aerospace, Defence and Security sector, grouping together the leading high-tech companies across all fields, including electronics (Selenia), aeronautics (Aermacchi), Defence (OTO Melara), helicopters (Agusta), and Space (Telespazio). The next step was to initiate a policy of agreements to establish international joint ventures in the Group’s most important sectors: AgustaWestland for helicopters, Alenia Marconi Systems for radar and MBDA for missile systems. The need to find market financing for rising R&D costs signalled the beginning of the pathway towards becoming a public listed company. In 1987, the company was converted into a joint-stock company (SpA) in preparation for its listing on the official Milan stock market in 1992 and its privatisation in 2000.

EMPAR passive radar was adopted by the new ‘Horizon’ class frigates and the aircraft carrier ‘Cavour’. Designed to be the main sensor on medium and large tonnage ships, it could be integrated into the ship’s combat system


Creation of Europe’s first multifunctional EMPAR radar

The European Multifunction Phased-Array Radar (EMPAR) was one of the world’s first multifunctional naval radars, marking the birth of a crucial technology within the sector. It featured a rotating phased-array antenna that allowed wide hemispheric coverage by using a single transmission beam and multiple reception beams. Also, operating in the C-band, it could perform three-dimensional target detection, multiple pursuit of a group of targets, and missile guidance.

AMX on display at the Leonardo Aeronautical Industry Museum in Caselle Torinese (TO). Manlio Quarantelli flew the first AMX on 15 May 1984. The first production aircraft flew on 11 May 1988 and, in 1989, entered service with the 103rd Group of the 51st Wing of the Italian Air Force


First deliveries of AMX ‘Ghibli’ jets

Fruit of an international consortium involving Aeritalia, Aermacchi and Brazil’s Embraer, the AMX was conceived in the 1980s and 1990s as a single-seat light ground attack aircraft (AMX) and a two-seat advanced training aircraft with attack capability (AMX-T). The programme also marked the entry of Aermacchi into the field of composite materials in terms of development and production.

The ETR 500 entered service in 1990, with 61 trainsets produced until 1998. With an approved maximum speed of 300 km/h, it formed the backbone of Trenitalia’s ‘Frecciarossa’ high-speed service. Foto: ETR 500, 1992, Courtesy Ansaldo Breda Historical Archive


The ETR 500 train, progenitor of the High-Speed train, enters service

On 15 June 1990, the ETR 500, designed in the 1980s by the Treno Veloce Italiano (TREVI) consortium, with Ansaldo and Breda also taking part for the railway components, was unveiled on the occasion of the Czechoslovakia-Austria World Cup football match in Florence. Leaving Rome’s Termini station at 12.20 pm, it arrived in Florence within ninety-eight minutes. The ETR 500 journey marks an ideal baptism for electric trains designed for the high-speed network.

Work on the A321 fuselage section at the Nola (NA) plant. The site became operational in 1995 with the production of aerostructures for various programmes, including with international partners


Start of a partnership between Finmeccanica and Airbus for the A321

The Airbus A321 programme was the focus for an agreement between the two companies for the design and production of the front fuselage section of the civil transport aircraft. The partnership would grow to the point of producing over 2,000 fuselage sections at the Nola (Naples) plant.

VTS, Control Tower, Genoa. This is a decisive technology in ensuring the safety of maritime transport and protecting the environment and human lives, developed by SELEX Sistemi Integrati (as it was then called) on behalf of the Coast Guard


Italy’s seas become safer with the VTS (Vessel Traffic System) project

The Vessel Traffic System (VTS), Italy’s first vessel and port traffic management system, went into operation in Messina. Following its gradual commissioning by other centres in the main Italian ports, controlling some 7,400 kilometres of coastline, the VTS was later adopted by many other countries.

The first flight of the DA3, the first Italian EFA prototype (Caselle Torinese, 4 June 1995) piloted by Napoleone Bragagnolo. He also flew the second Italian prototype, the DA7, for the development of armament and navigation systems on 27 January 1997


First flight of the first Eurofighter Typhoon prototype

The Typhoon, a multi-role fighter aircraft, is not only an excellent defence system but also a true technology incubator for European industry in terms of advanced materials, communications, avionics and digital solutions, thus facilitating the transition to the sixth generation of combat aircraft. In particular, Finmeccanica produced about 36% of the value of the entire quadrennial programme in which the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain also took part, with a key role in the aeronautics (composite structures) and electronics components (AESA - Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, infrared search and tracking systems, complete electronic measurement and countermeasure self-protection suites).

1995 saw the first flight of Development Aircraft no. 3 (DA3), the first Italian prototype and the first ever to be equipped with the final engines chosen for this aircraft, the Eurojet EJ200, which contributed to the programme’s success.

First flight of the NH90, Eurocopter France, Marignane, 18 December 1995. Agusta was responsible for the naval version (NFH) and the construction of the Ground Test Vehicle for the entire dynamic system. The fifth prototype, also the responsibility of the Italian company, flew on 22 December 1999


Flight of the first NH90 prototype

This was the world’s first helicopter equipped with fly-by-wire flight controls and mainly constructed with composite materials. The NH90, produced by the NH (NATO Helicopter) Industries (Leonardo Helicopters, Airbus Helicopters and Fokker) consortium, is a twin-turbine multi-role helicopter with a four-blade rotor. It was Europe’s leading helicopter programme (involving Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands), used by the world’s major armed forces and available in tactical and naval transport versions.

Raffaello was one of three Multi Purpose Logistic Cargo Modules built for the International Space Station. The first MPLM flight took place on 8 March 2001. As of 2011, with the closure of the Shuttle programme, the modules ceased to be used. In ten years of operation, ‘Leonardo’ and ‘Raffaello’, used in alternation flew a total of 12 times


Construction of the International Space Station's modules begins

Following an agreement between NASA and ASI in 1991, Alenia Spazio began constructing the Multi-Purpose Logistic Modules (MPLM) used in shuttle flights to transfer material to and from the International Space Station (ISS). The three MPLM flight units, ‘Leonardo’, ‘Raffaello’ and ‘Donatello’ were designed for an operational life of 10 years and 25 missions. From March 2011, ‘Leonardo’ became a Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) and a permanent part of the Station. Finmeccanica’s expertise in structures and thermal control for space production dates back to the 1970s with Aeritalia’s participation in the Spacelab project. This enabled the Group to become one of the most accredited manufacturers of manned modules.

Mirach 100/5 remote-controlled Aerial Target System by Meteor Aeronautical Constructions (CAE), ready for take-off, late 1990s


First flight of the Mirach 100/5

On 18 December, the Mirach 100/5 Aerial Target System made its first official flight. It is an uncrewed aircraft used in anti-aircraft crew training, allowing an accurate emulation of the main emerging threats in terms of their size, performance and radar signature. Thanks to its NATO 98% reliability coefficient certification, the Mirach 100/5 has been chosen by many armed forces around the world.

3D drawing of the VIMS (Visible Infrared Mapping Spectrometer) spectrometer that equips the Cassini-Huygens probe. The instrument was designed to study the composition of the atmospheres of Saturn and Titan, to observe Titan’s surface, and to identify the surface composition of the small satellites, rings and asteroids observed during the mission’s journey. Credits NASA


Launch of the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn

Cassini-Huygens, a joint NASA, ESA and ASI mission, was launched to study Saturn and its system of satellites and rings with a special focus on Titan, the largest of its moons. Finmeccanica built the SRU (Stellar Reference Unit) stellar sensor, used to keep Cassini on track on its interplanetary trajectory and when orbiting Saturn, the VIMS (Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer) for visible and infrared mapping , and the HASI (Huygens Atmospheric Structure Instrument), which landed on Titan in 2005 and has enabled the study of the vertical structure of the satellite’s atmosphere, one of the largest in the entire solar system. Finmeccanica then contributed its electronic technologies to the success of the Cassini radar, designing and building the signal converter and its power amplifier, key elements for observing the surface of satellites under the clouds.

The EH 101 was the first helicopter developed by making several pre-production helicopters through laboratory tests and trials on a static prototype. The first of the nine planned prototypes, the PP1 (Pre-Production 1), flew on 9 October 1987 at Westland’s Yeovil plant in the UK, while the last PP9 made its first flight in January 1991, at Cascina Costa di Samarate (VA), Agusta Westland’s test site


The EH101 helicopter enters service with the British Royal Navy

Launched in 1983, the European Helicopter (EH) Industries consortium developed the project in response to a joint request by the Italian Navy and the British Royal Navy. In 2004 it changed its name to AW101 following Agusta’s acquisition of Westland. It is the most advanced multi-role medium-heavy class helicopter, three-engined with a composite pentaplane rotor and configurable for a wide range of missions, including Maritime (it can be carried on frigate-type ships for anti-submarine operations), Battlefield, Personnel Recovery and Search & Rescue.

First flight of the C-27J, Caselle Torinese, 24 September 1999. With this model, Alenia won the Joint Cargo Aircraft competition in the United States in 2007


Flight of the twin-engine C-27J tactical transport aircraft

The first prototype of the C-27J, a high-performance twin-engine tactical transport aircraft, flew at Caselle Torinese Airport (Turin). The C-27J Spartan was recognised as the most effective multi-role military transport aircraft in its class. It is interoperable with other transport aircraft and, due to its robust construction, capable of operating from semi-prepared runways and under extreme environmental conditions.

The Ansaldo Foundation is based at Villa Cattaneo dell’Olmo, a historic 17th-century mansion, and is an example of the renovation and reuse of Genoese suburban residences. Ansaldo bought the villa in the 1970s, and it became the property of Leonardo in the 2000s. The photo shows the study and consultation room


Establishment of the Ansaldo Foundation

On 23 May 1980, the Ansaldo Historical Archive became the first Italian business archive to open to the public. This was the first step towards the creation of the future Ansaldo Foundation which was set up on 18 February 2000 by Leonardo, the Liguria Region, Genoa City Council and the Metropolitan City of Genoa, in the historic Villa Cattaneo dell’Olmo in Genoa. The Foundation, whose mission includes promoting study and research into business history and culture, houses and safeguards a heritage of over 100 archives, 5,300 historical videos and one million images, bearing witness to the history of the Italian economy and industry from the end of the 19th century to today. Here, culture and enterprise tell the story - also to the new generations - of the economy, entrepreneurship and work of communities and entire regions, contributing to the country’s progress.

A380 fuselage section inside the Alenia Aeronautica factory in Nola (NA), 2001. The aircraft’s first flight took place on 27 April 2005


Launch of agreements for participation in the Airbus A380 programme

Alenia Aeronautica entered into a partnership with Airbus to build the A380, the largest-ever commercial airliner. The agreement awarded the company the design and production - for the whole A380 family of aircraft and derivatives - of a central fuselage section comprising three major components (the upper and lower parts of the central fuselage, side panels with doors and central floor structure), plus related engineering activities, for a total value of 4% of the programme. The light-alloy structure was produced in the Nola and Pomigliano d'Arco  (Naples) plants and assembled with the other components in the Airbus sites in France. This was the largest participation in any European programme by a company not belonging to the manufacturing consortium.

Video banner : Compagnia Generale di Elettricità factories, Milan, 1955 - 1956,
Courtesy Fondazione Ansaldo