Leonardo-Finmeccanica, partnered with Airbus DS Electronics and Border Security (EBS) as “Team Skytale”, has been chosen as preferred bidder by the UK Ministry of Defence to upgrade the Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) systems on more than 400 operational platforms, spanning land, air and sea. In 2020, the UK will be switching over to the new Mode 5 IFF standard, the latest version of the system which is being introduced by NATO. The Leonardo-Finmeccanica-led team is on course to upgrade all legacy air, naval and ground-based platforms with the new Mode 5 technology. Mode 5 uses the latest cryptographic techniques to overcome the security limitations of earlier standards which can be vulnerable to exploitation or deception by adversaries.
IFF allows operators to identify ‘friendly’ forces and distinguish them from potential threats. It does this by sending out an interrogation signal to unidentified aircraft and verifying the automatic responses received, effectively a modern-day challenge and password system. Ensuring that ground, air and naval crews can reliably recognise their compatriots is one of the main ways of avoiding ‘friendly fire’ incidents.
Following contract award, “Team Skytale” will upgrade all MoD platforms which have an out-of-service date after 2020, including 11 aircraft types (managed by Leonardo-Finmeccanica), 18 naval and 2 land-based platform types (managed by Airbus DS EBS). A sovereign support capability will also be provided, with the team establishing a UK-based Mode 5 IFF support hub.
A key element of the team’s approach is to minimise equipment types, using the Leonardo-Finmeccanica M428 Transponder and SIT 2010 cryptographic computer for all platforms. Both products were designed at Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s site in L'Aquila, Italy with some development work carried out in Basildon, UK. They will be manufactured at the company’s site in Latina. Airbus DS EBS will provide its proven MSSR 2000 I© and MSR 1000 I Interrogator as well as its BTI 1000 I test equipment. It has delivered about 400 IFF interrogator systems to 30 countries worldwide. Among others, EBS’ MSSR 2000 I interrogator is deployed on ships of the German, French and UK Royal Navy. In Germany, EBS has set up the air traffic control network of the German Air Force.
Leonardo-Finmeccanica is a leader in IFF technology. In the UK, the company has previously delivered Mode 5 IFF for the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers and Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons. Internationally, the company provides Mode 5 IFF technology for the Saab Gripen E fighter, has recently demonstrated innovative reverse-IFF (air-to-ground) capabilities on Italian Typhoon aircraft and is currently studying, within an UK MoD programme, this new capability for the future Eurofighter.