Leonardo at Wings Over Wairarapa: a partner for New Zealand’s defence capabilities

28 November 2023

Leonardo attended for the first time the Air Festival at Hood Aerodrome in Masterton, New Zealand, to demonstrate its commitment in the region. The company is proud to support the aviation industry and a number of domestic companies that provide services, maintenance, and technology solutions for the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).

A team of ambassadors from our Yeovil site, the Home of British Helicopters, made a journey to the other side of the world to take part in Wings Over Wairarapa, a major air festival event in New Zealand. Our representatives were proud to exhibit Leonardo’s technologies, products and systems for aerospace, defence, and security markets, as well as showcasing STEM activities to engage with local school students and families.

At the event, we showcased a model of the AW159 Wildcat, which Leonardo is offering to the NZDF as a solution for its maritime helicopter replacement programme. The AW159 Wildcat has been proven in service with Navies around the world to be capable of meeting and exceeding the demanding environmental and performance requirements of the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN). With its design from the outset being targeted at single-spot combatant operations in challenging maritime environments, the AW159 is the right platform for RNZN, being able to operate across a full range of aviation missions.

Equally adept at multi-spot operations, the Wildcat (as it is known to the British Armed Forces) is an operationally capable and cost-effective multi-role platform, able to go beyond the limits of any other embarked aircraft. There is a long, successful and well-established relationship between the Royal Navy and RNZN with ongoing close collaboration, knowledge sharing, and interoperability. The operation of the same platform brings the possibility of greater naval synergy, building upon and strengthening the existing ties and broadening and increasing the opportunities for knowledge sharing and mutual support.

In recognition of the need to build resilience into the NZDF’s operations for the future, Leonardo is offering a New Zealand-based support solution for the helicopters and is working closely with a number of key domestic suppliers in the New Zealand defence market.

Aaron Lewis, Campaign Director at Leonardo Helicopters, said: “Leonardo understands the important role New Zealand’s engineering sector can play on the world stage. By working closely with industry and local schools we are starting to see the innovations being undertaking in shaping New Zealand’s infrastructure, technology, and prosperity but most importantly its future skills. For example, our STEM activities are about showing young people the prospects of how their science, maths or even English studies can transfer into an engineering career”.

Our team was also on a mission to inspire the next-generation of New Zealanders into engineering careers, via the Take Flight STEM programme, by highlighting how studying sciences can provide key life skills that can be transferred into a manufacturing or engineering career. Visitors to our stand were encouraged to participate in fun aerospace activities using their communication skills, team work, and problem-solving abilities.

This followed activities we launched in support of the Southland and Otago Regional Engineering Collective (SOREC) Academy in February this year, with a team of STEM Ambassadors from our helicopters business providing sessions across schools in New Zealand. The STEM activities were designed to give an insight into the broad range of careers available, and included working as a team to make design decisions in order to define a New Zealand search and rescue helicopter, solving an avionics design task, and a hands-on model life raft building task.

The collaboration between the SOREC Academy and Leonardo resulted from a recognition on both sides of a shared vision that the STEM shortfall is a global issue, with the demand showing no signs of fading. This is just one reason why a selection of STEM careers can position NZ students into an advantageous position globally. For Leonardo, STEM careers are important because it provides future skills for the next generation, which can provide future operators and maintainers of its platforms.

Tara Crees, Avionics Engineering Graduate at our Yeovil site was one such ambassador, and commented: “It was great to see the students’ enthusiasm and ingenious ways of problem-solving as a team. The activities we have explored around helicopter engineering, with the students, has enabled them to develop new ways of thinking, and presented them with a different perspective to career opportunities in the engineering sector through the SOREC Academy.”