Leonardo DRS has developed a suite of survivability systems that the company believes represent a significant growth area.
“The survivability piece is relatively fresh and growing,” Bill Lynn, the CEO of Leonardo DRS, said in a May 28 phone interview. Lynn is a former DoD controller and deputy defense secretary and a longtime industry executive who has headed Leonardo DRS since 2012.
Counter unmanned aircraft systems are in the company’s quiver. Since 2017, Leonardo DRS has received U.S. Army development and production contracts for the Mobile Low, Slow Unmanned Aircraft Integrated Defense System (MLIDS), including a nearly $75 million contract in February.
In addition, Leonardo DRS’ survivability business received a boost after the company’s 2017 acquisition of the San Diego-based Daylight Solutions, a leader in quantum cascade laser (QCL) technology. The latter generates laser emission through the direct conversion of electricity into infrared radiation in contrast to legacy solid-state lasers that need several frequency conversion stages to generate emission in the IR, which leads to size, weight, power and reliability deficiencies, according to DRS. The military has used gas and solid state lasers since the 1960s.
QCLs provide “size, weight, and power improvements and let you bring protection suites onto lighter weight helicopters,” Lynn said.
Leonardo DRS has used quantum cascade laser technology in its design for the Distributed Aperture Infrared Countermeasures (DAIRCM) system for Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk combat search and rescue helicopters and Navy MH-60 Sea Knight helicopters, both by Sikorsky [LMT].
The U.S. Army Common Infrared Countermeasures System (CIRCM) for that service’s rotor craft also uses quantum cascade technology. Northrop Grumman [NOC] is the prime contractor for CIRCM, while Leonardo DRS builds the Solaris laser for the system.
Survivability systems also figure into Leonardo DRS’ ground systems, as the company and Israel’s Rafael, build the TROPHY active protection system (TROPHY APS) for U.S. Army and Marine Corps M-1 Abrams tanks and are testing a lighter version of the capability, the TROPHY VPS, for Bradleys and Strykers. TROPHY APS is also deployed on Israel’s Merkava tanks by MANTAK.
Lynn said that NATO countries may also want TROPHY APS and VPS. “Most militaries operate their tanks and personnel carriers together so you need to have a compatible system,” he said. “You don’t want to have different radars interfering with each other. TROPHY would give these militaries a significant operational advantage.”
New orders for Leonardo DRS nearly doubled in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the first quarter of 2018, according to the latest Leonardo quarterly financial report. There were 687 new orders worth $780 million for Leonardo DRS for the quarter ending March 31, compared to 345 new orders worth $424 million for the first quarter of last year, according to the report.
Among the main orders in the first quarter of this year were more than 100 for the U.S. Army’s Mounted Family of Computer Systems (MFoCS) II.
MFoCS II “is really for us a foundational system,” Lynn said. “It allows the Army to fuse all the sensor data coming into a vehicle and makes the vehicle far more lethal and survivable by fusing that data. We also now have much improved cyber assurance to protect that data.”