Italian defense group Leonardo-Finmeccanica has launched a new 360 degree airborne radar using fixed panels distributed around the body of aircraft, which it claims is the first of its kind.

Norway’s configuration of the Osprey radar involves a fixed radar panel in the nose of the AW101 and one in each of the landing gear sponsons.The Osprey electronically scanned radar has already been sold to the Norwegian Air Force for use on its new AW101 search and rescue helicopters, as well as to two unnamed US firms, the firm defense group said.

"Until now, if you wanted 360-degree coverage you would use a rotating radar on the belly of the aircraft," said Brendon Nolan, sales VP for radar and advanced targeting for Leonardo Airborne and Space Systems Division.

"That can be a problem if you are landing on semi-prepared strips or in snow, where the radar can be damaged by rocks," said Tim Bungey, chief engineer on the program.

Brendon said the radar was the first lightweight, airborne radar with 360-degree coverage and no moving parts.

The firm, formerly known as Finmeccanica, has already developed and sold its e-scan Seaspray radar, which sits on a gimbel.

The Osprey antennae, by contrast, are fixed, meaning less need for spare parts, said Bungey.

"Avoiding the need for a belly radar also reduces drag, which can improve time on station," he said.

The firm is targeting aircraft such as King Airs, as well as helicopters, but also believes the Osprey can be scaled up to be used on maritime patrol aircraft, with up to four radar panels a possibility.

"We have taken our experience developing algorhythms for fire control radars, as well as using our overland experience from our Picosar radar," said Bungey.

Weighing in at 50kg, the radar mounts antennae which weigh just over 11kg each.