Team Pellonia: The UK’s approach to Air Platform Protection

20 November 2023

The ever-increasing ranges and sophistication of air-to-air and surface-to-air threat systems have made aircraft increasingly vulnerable when deployed on operations. In this article we look at how the Next Generation of Air Survivability (NGAS) is being pioneered by UK industry to protect aircraft, and how Team Pellonia is delivering an onshore capability for the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The UK Ministry of Defence is currently focused on the development of emerging aircraft protection capabilities and is actively engaging with industry to deliver Next Generation Air Survivability (NGAS) for its aircraft fleets.

To this end, in July 2021 the UK MOD – led by the Royal Air Force (RAF), Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) – entered into a Strategic Partnership Arrangement (SPA) with an industry consortium that includes Leonardo playing a central role.

The collaborative team delivering this is called Team Pellonia, which will collectively work to protect the UK’s interests, a critical factor when dealing with strategic assets such as aircraft survivability systems.

The industry team is formed of Leonardo UK, Thales UK and Chemring Countermeasures. This enterprise approach draws in technology from across the UK, bolstering the supply chain and promoting the UK Government’s prosperity and social values agendas. It also ensures that UK Defence maintains an onshore capability. This approach can be adapted to meet the needs of export customers.

Leonardo’s Modular Advanced Platform Protection System (MAPPS) is at the heart of the Team Pellonia offering. Thales UK is providing its Elix-IR threat warning system that integrates with MAPPS, as well as the Vicon XF intelligent countermeasures dispenser, while Chemring is delivering the chaff and flare expendables. This gives a complete, multispectral, integrated DAS (IDAS) that can detect and defeat radio frequency and infrared threats with fully autonomous countermeasures, and is truly a best-in-class electromagnetic warfare (EW) solution.

Leonardo already successfully delivers the Praetorian Defensive Aids Sub-System (DASS) for the RAF’s Eurofighter Typhoon, as well as self-protection systems for the UK’s AW159 Wildcat, AW101 Merlin and Apache AH-64E helicopters. The industry team is additionally already on contract to deliver advanced protection systems for the RAF’s Shadow R2 intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft and E-7 Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) fleets.

Leonardo is also a founding industry partner of the UK’s Team Tempest, which is developing a next-generation fighter under the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP). Technologies developed under existing programmes will benefit this type of future work, while new developments will also be fed into in-service systems, ensuring that the UK customer receives best-in-class capabilities in the most cost-effective and efficient way.

This teaming is a continuation of the well-established partnership Leonardo has with the UK MOD, building on the successful delivery of existing DAS capabilities with the added benefit of NGAS and ensuring commonality with in-service systems.

A de-risked approach 

The industry team has been working extensively with the MOD and aircraft primes since the agreement was signed in 2021, collaborating to undertake platform feasibility studies that will de-risk the future integration of MAPPS onto new aircraft types.

A key component of the feasibility studies is to identify the most capable, value for money solution for the customer. When reviewing costs versus capability for alternative DAS configurations, the studies enable key stakeholders to quantify risk and make informed decisions on financial resourcing.

MAPPS video

“This involves supporting the customer to generate a comprehensive assessment of integrating MAPPS onto existing or future platforms, taking into consideration any existing DAS upgrades to the system’s sensors or effectors,” says Michael Lea, VP of Sales for EW at Leonardo.

“We are assessing the feasibility of integrating MAPPS to platform electrical power systems, navigation solutions and existing cockpit displays, including physical equipment location. The study output provides technical insight and guidance to mitigate any risks and challenges, ensuring a well-informed decision-making process for the customer.”

Furthermore, this feasibility work benefits from Leonardo’s deep understanding of aircraft system integration and the facilities it owns that can deliver this. 

“From our Capability Green site in Luton, Leonardo UK is accountable for the entire IDAS integration and delivery, working closely with platform primes to design and install equipment and provide the best possible capability within the confines of the airframe and pre-installed equipment,” Lea adds.

MAPPS utilises the NATO DAS (NDAS) interface standard as defined in STANAG 4781, and as such it will be fully capable of being integrated with any future sensor or effector equipment developed by any manufacturer using the same standard. For existing systems using different interfaces, the MAPPS Controller has the ability to translate other interfaces to an NDAS-compliant format for seamless integration with NDAS-compliant subsystems.

Integration is the nucleus of the MAPPS product, principally via the MAPPS Controller. Combining the sensors and effectors via the MAPPS Controller provides a fully integrated, coherent and prioritised threat picture, optimised and automated countermeasures/tactics deployment, and weapons systems linking.

Moreover, the modular system architecture aims to minimise any impact to the platform software or architecture for ease of integration, or for the addition of new sensors and effectors to enhance platform survivability, making it a flexible option that will grow as new requirements emerge.

Through MAPPS, Leonardo offers a complete, value for money, capable solution. It is designed to grow, and as a result is future proofed for the UK user.

True value

Team Pellonia’s offering is based on individually-proven DAS components and the unrivalled expertise of the industry team. Leonardo and the industry team are drawing on over 100 years of experience in developing EW capabilities for the UK MOD, and are firmly establishing themselves as world leaders in the development of this type of technology.

This expert-driven capability is firmly based onshore in the UK, and the teaming is securing UK jobs and bolstering the UK supply chain, ensuring that the Government has full control over its strategic and critical assets. This onshore approach provides freedom of action and operational independence for the Government so that it does not need to rely on imported technology to deliver this critical capability.

The safety of UK armed forces personnel is the ultimate goal when developing NGAS capabilities. Team Pellonia is well placed to deliver a fully integrated system that ensures platform survivability, maximising the safety of UK personnel and delivering freedom of action and operational independence for the UK.

Air Platform Protection – Next Generation Air Survivability

Leonardo UK's highly-skilled scientists and engineers are dedicated to delivering high-tech protective electronics for UK Armed Forces aircraft. These include RAF Typhoons, Shadow R1 surveillance aircraft, E-7 Wedgetail airborne early warning aircraft and the majority of the UK's helicopter fleet including the AW159 Wildcat, AW101 Merlin and Apache AH-64E.

Air Platform Protection – Next Generation Air Survivability