Leonardo supports UK-US counter-drone collaboration, integrates new technology

15 September 2021

The company has integrated the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)’s NINJA technology into the Royal Air Force ORCUS counter-drone system. Leonardo has previously delivered four complete baseline ORCUS systems to the Royal Air Force for the Synergia research and development programme, to also be used as a national standby capability in support of Emergency Services. Counter-drone technology from Leonardo was operated by the RAF during the recent G7 summit in Cornwall.

As part of the UK and US Armed Forces’ continued collaboration on counter-drone research and development, Leonardo has integrated the US Air Force’s NINJA (Negation of Improvised Non-State Joint Aerial threats) technology into the RAF’s ORCUS counter-drone system.

The integration follows Leonardo’s delivery of four complete baseline ‘ORCUS’ counter-drone systems to the Royal Air Force. ORCUS is playing a key role in the RAF’s wide-ranging ‘Synergia’ research and development programme, managed by Defence Equipment & Support’s Future Capability Group. ORCUS is also being maintained as a national standby capability, able to rapidly respond to a drone-based crisis anywhere in the UK in support of Emergency Services.

UK and US Armed Forces are collaborating on fixed site C-sUAS through the Synergia programme and ORCUS system operators have already shown the capability of a coherent system such as ORCUS/NINJA. The ability to detect dozens of small drone platforms in the airspace around airbases and then mitigate them has been aptly demonstrated.

NINJA, developed by the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), can electronically take command of a hostile drone. Its integration into ORCUS provides another tool for operators to defeat rogue drones, in addition to the system’s existing Leonardo Guardian system. Guardian provides a long range ‘electronic sniper rifle’ jamming effect, while NINJA provides a similarly surgical cyber effect at a shorter range which can take control of a drone’s protocols and maneuver it to a safe location.

Leonardo has completed the integration of NINJA into ORCUS and the complete system underwent evaluation this August at the RAF Spadeadam electronic warfare tactics facility in Cumbria. The trials saw ORCUS employed to detect, track, identify and defeat simulated drone engagements, with RAF and USAF personnel impressed by the performance and utility of the joint system.

Leonardo is proud to be partnering with the RAF on counter-drone technology and sees strong opportunities to work with US Armed Forces in this rapidly evolving domain.