Leonardo Helicopters To Develop Rotary-Wing Proteus UAS In UK

Credit: Leonardo

FARNBOROUGH–Leonardo Helicopters has been awarded a £60 million ($71.7 million) contract to build and fly an uncrewed rotary-wing aerial system technology demonstrator.

The Proteus platform will be delivered through a new phase of the UK defense ministry’s Rotary Wing Uncrewed Air System (RWUAS) Technology Demonstration Program (TDP), a spinoff from its Strategic Partnering Arrangement with Leonardo. Phase 3 of RWUAS will see Leonardo deliver the 2-3-metric ton vertical takeoff and landing air system which is envisioned to perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) anti-submarine warfare and logistics supply missions for both land and sea domains. First flight is planned for 2025. 

Leonardo says the platform will feature a high payload and large internal volume capability and be able to operate in what the OEM calls “harsh environmental conditions.”

The Royal Navy has previously outlined that Proteus would form part of its future uncrewed Future Maritime Aviation Force that could be embarked on the UK’s aircraft carriers and other surface vessels.

Such a platform would support the Navy’s Leonardo AW101 Merlin helicopters and be able to carry payloads such as radars or anti-submarine torpedoes.

It has been suggested that Proteus may feature a tandem rotor design, a configuration which might fit with the platform’s envisioned payload and volume capabilities. No details about the platform’s configuration have been released.

“This contract represents a major step toward our future in next-generation uncrewed military technology and the sustainment of unique engineering skills onshore,” said Adam Clarke, newly appointed managing director of Leonardo Helicopters UK. 

Leonardo’s RWUAS work saw the company produce a capability concept analysis under Phase 1, while Phase 2 examined around 16 potential configurations for the RWUAS platform, narrowing them down to a shortlist. 

Leonardo says the project will leverage end-to-end development capabilities in the UK and be conducted at the company’s facility in Yeovil, England. 

The news emerges as the company positions itself to compete for the UK’s New Medium Helicopter (NMH) requirement to replace the UK Royal Air Force’s Airbus Puma fleet. Leonardo is proposing its AW149 8.6-metric ton super-medium platform, which the company is promising to produce in the UK for domestic and export customers should it win the contest.

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.