ROME – A corporate tie-up between Italy’s Leonardo and Germany’s Hensoldt could make Europe’s two future fighters, the Tempest and the Future Combat Air System, more interoperable, a Leonardo official has claimed.

On Jan. 3 Leonardo concluded a deal to take a 25.1% stake in electronics firm Hensoldt, which will immediately see closer collaboration between the firms on e-scan radar technology being supplied to the Eurofighter.

While Leonardo is design authority on the new radars being built for Kuwaiti, Qatari and Royal Air Force Typhoons, Hensoldt has that role on the radars being supplied for upgrades to Spanish and German jets.

But Hensoldt is also set to take a role on the electronics on board the planned Franco-German FCAS fighter, while Leonardo is working on the UK-led Tempest program.

Questions have been raised about the wisdom of pushing two new fighter programs in Europe rather than pooling resources.

Thanks to the Leonardo-Hensoldt team-up they may at least more interoperable, said Giovanni Soccodato, Leonardo’s Chief Strategic Equity Officer.

“There may be a commonality in technology. The two aircraft must be interoperable to work together within NATO, so having Hensoldt work on FCAS and Leonardo work on Tempest could help,” he told Defense News.

He added, “With Hensoldt having a role on FCAS, Leonardo as a shareholder becomes more central to European defense programs.”

The completion of the deal for Leonardo to take a stake in Hensoldt was followed on Jan. 14 by news that Hensoldt was handing Leonardo a 260 million euro ($295 million) contract to supply components for its Eurofighter radars for Germany and Spain.

Soccodato said that thanks to Leonardo’s new stake in the German firm, “this is less of a contract and more of a partnership.”

He added, “Taking the stake is a strategic move, not a financial investment.”

Prior to taking the stake in Hensoldt, Leonardo units in the UK and Italy were already advising the firm in its work on Eurofighter radar.

“Between us we have the majority of the electronics work on Eurofighter,” he said.

Soccodato added that there would be technology sharing on other programs.

“Hensoldt’s strength in optical technology can help our products, while we have command-and-control technology they don’t have. Our super-fast computing and artificial intelligence capabilities could also now be accessible for Hensoldt,” he said.

Leonardo and Hensoldt are two key manufacturers of Transmit-Receive modules for e-scan radar, he added.

“We are helping build a base for a European defense industrial capability,” he said.

Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.

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