ROME — Italy’s Leonardo is edging closer to producing a fully digital, active electronically scanned array radar — the only one of its kind in Europe according to the firm — with initial components now being manufactured.

The L-band Kronos Power Shield radar is being built for the Italian Navy’s new Landing Helicopter Dock vessel.

“We are evolving the new Leonardo AESA radar into a fully digital system, which allows us to manage a bigger amount of data in less time, so enhancing the radar performance,” said Renzo Tosini, naval and Air Defence line of business director at Leonardo’s Land and Naval Defence Electronics division.

Active Electronically Scanned Array radars use grids of small Transmit Receive Modules, each generating an individual radar beam which can be combined to create a larger, composite, directed radar beam.

With each TRM containing its own power source, the break down of one TRM barely affects overall performance, unlike traditional radars where a sole power source behind the antenna powered the entire radar, meaning total breakdown if the power source was lost.

The key novelty in Leonardo’s new radar is that the transmitting and receiving signal is already digital at the level of the single radiating element.

“The new L band radar is based on ‘digital’ TRMs hosted into so-called ‘Digital Active Tile’ blocks,” said Tosini.

“Going fully digital means the radar transceiver is thinner and allows the radar system to process more information faster,” he added.

The roughly 40 square meter rotating radar will offer an instrumental extended surveillance range of 1,500 - 2,000 km.

Italy’s Fincantieri started work in July on Italy’s new 1.1 billion euro LHD, a 25 knot, 200 metre long vessel that will enter service in around 2022.

The multi-functional radar will equip Italy’s LHD and the Landing Platform Dock that Fincantieri will build for Qatar, said Tosini.

The new technology is being developed as Fincantieri enters talks to jointly build warships with France’s Naval Group. Politicians in Italy have raised fears that the systems, like radar, which Leonardo has long supplied to Fincantieri ships might be squeezed out of the joint program by kit supplied by France’s Thales.

Leonardo is also offering flat panel C and X band radars known as Kronos which will be used on Italy’s new multi-purpose PPA frigates.