International Development and the ‘One Company’

Eurofighter Typhoon in flight. Leonardo delivered about 36% of the value of the programme, with a key role in the aeronautics and electronics component. 


“How did an Italian conglomerate that, until last year, was largely considered an also-ran in the cutting-edge defence and aerospace industry suddenly become the largest supplier of the most sophisticated parts of Europe’s premier military programme? The answer reveals one of the most remarkable reversals of fortune in the recent history of the European defence sector, one that signals a shift in who builds and sells the continent’s largest and most important weapons. Through a series of bold and sometimes costly restructurings and acquisitions – particularly in the UK, where over the past nine months it has spent more than £1.6bn ($2.9bn, €2.4bn) to become, by some measures, the second largest defence group in the country – Finmeccanica has thrust itself into the centre of what many expect to be the second large-scale consolidation the European sector has seen in a decade”.


Taken from:
‘Rising stars: an acquisitive Finmeccanica thrusts into Europe’s defence dogfight (Peter Spiegel, Financial Times, 24 August 2005). Download the article here

Finmeccanica launched a policy of agreements and acquisitions, taking part in the reorganisation of the European aerospace industry and progressively emerging as a global player in Aerospace, Defence and Security. This included the takeover of the UK helicopter company Westland and of BAE Systems’ assets in defence electronics, and the Space Alliance with Thales for satellite services and space manufacturing. It gained further expertise in defence electronics with the US company DRS Technologies, and in helicopters with the Polish company PZL-Świdnik.

Following the 2009 international financial crisis, with shrinking budgets and intensifying global competition, the watchword became asset rationalisation. This decision led to the company’s exit from the energy and transport sectors and its reorganisation into One Company, transforming its subsidiaries into operating divisions. The aim was to strengthen competitiveness and investment capacity by moving towards innovative technology cycles in relation to the increasing digitisation in Space, cybersecurity and industrial design. The company’s rebranding as Leonardo in 2016 was the ideal culmination of this transformation.

Flight of the first FALCO prototype, Salto di Quirra, Sardinia, 2003


The first FALCO prototype takes off: the drone era begins

The FALCO, progenitor of a family of Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles intended for reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence missions, made its maiden flight from the Interforce Firing Range of Salto di Quirra in Sardinia. Its technological evolution led Finmeccanica to be the only European company capable of supplying end-to-end remote piloting solutions, also integrating platforms, radar and electro-optical sensors and ground mission and control systems.

First flight of the M-346, Venegono Superiore (VA), 15 July 2004


First flight of the M-346 trainer

The M-346 introduced innovations in its category, such as digital fly-by-wire controls and the ETTS (Embedded Tactical Training System) training system that enabled the aircraft to emulate sensors, armaments and CGFs (Computer Generated Forces). It also enabled pilots to operate simultaneously, and in combination, in Live (real flight), Virtual (various types of simulators) and Constructive (interfacing with any computer-generated force/threat) modes.

AB139 helicopter in flight over the mountains of Piedmont, 2010


The AB139 enters into service

The AB139, renamed the AW139 in 2005, is a multi-role helicopter (rescue, medical intervention, public safety, offshore), the world’s best-in-class aircraft. Its strong point lies in the main rotor transmissions, fruit of a technological innovation launched in the 1970s and then extended to later models. In the event of a loss of lubricant, the transmissions provide the AW139 with sixty minutes of run-dry time, flying safely well beyond the minimum standard of thirty minutes set by the regulators.

Atomic Passive Hydrogen Maser clock manufactured at the Leonardo factory in Nerviano, Milan


The first PHM (Passive Hydrogen Maser) atomic clock passes all tests

The Passive Hydrogen Maser was launched in 2008 aboard Giove-B, the second experimental satellite of the Galileo constellation, Europe’s satellite navigation system. The PHM ‘marks the time’ of all satellites in the constellation with greater precision than any previous space clock, having a deviation of one second every three million years. This ensures maximum accuracy in Galileo’s ground-based geo-localisation and satellite navigation services.

Work on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner fuselage sections, Alenia, Grottaglie plant, Taranto, 2006


One Piece Barrel technology for the Boeing 787

The One Piece Barrel manufacturing process was first used in the aeronautical sector at the Monteiasi-Grottaglie plant in Puglia. This involves manufacturing the fuselage trunk of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner commercial aircraft as one piece entirely from Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) composite material.

KRONOS, three-dimensional C-band, medium-range multi-role radar


Design work on the three-dimensional KRONOS radar begins

Designed on the basis of experience gained with EMPAR radars, KRONOS is a three-dimensional, multi-mission radar for land and naval use. Based on Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology, KRONOS detects, identifies and tracks airborne and naval objects as well as providing information on targets and weapon systems. The development of AESA technology was enabled by research and investment in microelectronic components made of gallium arsenide (GaAs), which later evolved into gallium nitride (GaN), at the company’s in-house foundry, a distinctive asset at European level.

The COSMO-SkyMed satellites, designed from the outset for dual use, were built in the Turin facilities of Thales Alenia Space


The first satellite of the COSMO-SkyMed constellation is launched into orbit

The first of four COSMO-SkyMed satellites, the most powerful and versatile space-based Earth observation system ever built, was launched. Unlike optical satellites, it features Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) sensors, an innovative technology allowing it to operate in all weather conditions. The constellation’s ‘four eyes’ can thus penetrate the clouds and also see in the dark.

View from the Cupola of the International Space Station over clouds and ocean, Low Earth Orbit - 2017 photo by Paolo Nespoli, Courtesy NASA and ASI


A Cupola to look out into Space

Cupola, a module that allows astronauts to see directly outside, docks with the International Space Station (ISS). Manufactured in the Turin facilities of Thales Alenia Space, Cupola enables the monitoring of extra-vehicular activities, docking operations, and the mechanical arm of the International Space Station. It is from here that astronauts take photographs of the Earth and other celestial bodies.

The Telespazio Galileo Control Centre at Fucino (L’Aquila). Spaceopal, on behalf of the European Union Agency for the Space Programme – EUSPA, is in charge of operations, the integrated logistics of the entire Galileo system, the management of the global communication network, and the system’s IT security.


The Telespazio Galileo Control Centre opens in Fucino

The Galileo Control Centre, at the Telespazio Space Centre in Fucino (L’Aquila), operates in parallel with the Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen (Munich), built by DLR-GfR, a German Space Agency company, in managing the Galileo programme’s satellite constellation and mission. Galileo is the European Union’s satellite navigation system, which provides a reliable and highly accurate global navigation and localisation service. The Passive Hydrogen Maser (PHM) atomic clock, designed and built by Leonardo at the company’s site at Nerviano (Milan), provides accurate time measurement. In operation since 2010, the Italian Centre was expanded in 2021, with new control rooms and operational areas covering 6,000 square metres.

The Carlo Bergamini at sea, in service since July 2012 with the Italian Navy


Launch of the first FREMM

The Carlo Bergamini, the first Italian ship in the European FREMM (European Multi-Mission Frigate) programme built in joint venture with Fincantieri, was launched on 16 July at the Riva Trigoso shipyard (Genoa). It was equipped with the multifunction EMPAR Radar and Finmecanica’s world-leading defence systems, including the MU-90 torpedo and the 76/62 Super Rapid and 127/64 naval guns.

Work on the 1000th fuselage for ATR on the production line at Pomigliano d'Arco (NA), 27 January 2012


The thousandth ATR fuselage built at the Pomigliano d’Arco (NA) plant

The ATR consortium, an equal joint venture between Finmeccanica and Airbus, is the world’s leading regional turboprop aircraft manufacturer. Alenia Aermacchi manufactures the entire fully equipped fuselage and vertical and horizontal tailpipes for all ATR aircraft, the latter with the highest percentage of advanced composite materials in its class. Thanks to the efficiency of their turboprop engines, ATRs consume up to 40% less fuel and emit up to 40% less CO2 than regional jets.

The AW139, AW169 and AW189 family of helicopters in flight, part of the ‘AW Product Family and Modularity’ programme launched by Agusta Westland in 2013


AgustaWestland launches the world first 'family' of helicopters

AgustaWestland introduced the Family Concept, the world’s first and only family of helicopters (AW139, AW169 and AW189) that shares a common design philosophy, certification and safety standards, components and instruments, plus maintenance and training systems.

Global Cyber Security Centre Leonardo, Chieti


Cyber Security Centre of Excellence is inaugurated in Chieti, Italy

The Cyber Security Centre of Excellence at Chieti comprises the Security Operation Centre (SOC) and the Open Source Intelligence Centre (OSIC) where the Supercalculator (high performance computer) is housed. Through these infrastructure, Finmeccanica - Selex ES provides security and cyber intelligence services for protection against cyber attacks. In action 24/7, the centre it protects critical infrastructures globally. Secure-by-design architectures and systems, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data analysis, virtualisation and supercomputing techniques play a central role in detection, cyber threat analysis, attack management and resolution.

The main stages of the Rosetta probe’s journey, 2006-2014, credits ESA


For the first time on a comet

The Rosetta space probe - the first to visit a comet (67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko) - carried several Finmeccanica instruments with hyperspectral and electro-optical technology. These included A-STR (Autonomous Star Tracker), a star attitude sensor for orienting the antenna that sends signals back to Earth; NAV CAM (Navigational Camera), the probe’s space navigation camera; and VIRTIS (Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer) to survey the comet’s thermal characteristics. It featured photovoltaic panels, the robotic Sample Drill & Distribution system, and the ‘drill’ installed on the lander, the latter designed to drill into the comet’s surface to acquire core samples.

The Expo 2015 control room in Milan, an example of the system capabilities achieved by Selex ES in security and in the dual applications of its technologies


Finmeccanica supports security at Expo 2015 in Milan

Finmeccanica developed the Safe City & Main Operation Centre platform to ensure safety and security at the Milan Expo, an event of global importance. In order to monitor the event, the centre collected, integrated and represented information flows from heterogeneous systems to make them usable and interoperable.

The maiden journey of the Frecciarossa 1000 arriving at Milano Centrale, 25 April 2015, credits FS Italiane Archives


Maiden journey of the Frecciarossa 1000 from Rome to Milan

Produced by AnsaldoBreda in partnership with Bombardier, this is the first ever mass-produced European high-speed train, with a top speed of 400 km/h. It is fully interoperable and adapts to Europe’s various types of electrical grids, power supplies and signalling systems. On board it is equipped with the ERTMS/ETCS (European Rail Traffic Management System/European Train Control System), the most advanced train control system that monitors journeys moment by moment, automatically intervening if necessary.

One of the key objectives of the mission is to continue the detection of methane made by ESA's probe Mars Express in 2004 to understand the processes involved in its generation and destruction, with an accuracy improved by three orders of magnitude compared to previous measurements.


The first mission of a robotic probe to explore Mars

The ExoMars robotic probe to Mars was launched from the Baikonur space base in Kazakhstan. The aim of this programme is to search for traces of life on Mars, past and present, to build a geochemical picture of the planet, and to acquire knowledge on the environment and its geophysical aspects. For this mission Finmeccanica supplied photovoltaic generators, units for transforming and distributing electrical power to the satellite, attitude sensors for orientation in space, and an optronic observation system.

Ceremony for the delivery of the 500th Eurofighter to the Italian Air Force: Leonardo employees involved in the EFA programme. Caselle Torinese (TO), 11 April 2017


Delivery of Eurofighter number 500

On 11 April, the Italian Air Force took delivery of the 500th Eurofighter Typhoon, an advanced multi-role fighter also used for NATO Air Policing missions, at the Turin Caselle plant. Leonardo realizes approximately 36% of the value of the entire program with a key role in the aeronautical and electronic component. In service since 2003, the Eurofighter is the backbone of the national air defense system and is undergoing constant improvement to acquire new capabilities. In particular, the advanced “beyond visual range” air-to-air missile Meteor, the high-precision Storm Shadow cruise missile and the high-precision Brimstone air-to-surface missile will be integrated. Eurofighter is the largest industrial collaboration program in Europe which generates thousands of highly specialized jobs.

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