Leonardo’s new M-40 target drone flew its first live missions for the Italian Navy in a recent training exercise, which took place at an Italian joint armed forces test range.
The exercise saw the aircraft carrier CAVOUR and its complement of AV8B+ fighter aircraft training alongside the destroyer MIMBELLI against M-40 drones simulating a range of incoming threats. The M-40 is an unmanned air system (UAS) able to convincingly mimic a variety of aircraft and missiles. It provides medium- to high-performance at a price comparable with competitors’ entry-level drones. During the exercise, the M-40 played the part of a missile to simulate an attack against the Italian naval vessels and separately represented a hostile fighter in air-to-air combat scenarios. During these missions, Navy personnel were able to ‘shoot down’ the reusable M-40 in realistic scenarios, allowing them to train with weapon systems including ASPIDE missiles.
Leonardo owns and operates the M-40 on behalf of the Italian Armed Forces, under a managed service arrangement with the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA). This exercise was the first set of missions to make use of the M-40, which is able to represent a full spectrum of radar, infrared (IR) and visual threats. Because of its lower operating costs, the M-40 was able to provide the same level of training as previous exercises at a significantly reduced cost.
Alongside the M-40, Leonardo continues to offer the MIRACH 100/5, which shares a ground control station with the new M-40 and can imitate the highest-performance threats facing modern armed forces. During the Italian Navy exercise, the MIRACH 100/5 was employed to simulate a missile attack against the naval vessels, allowing the crew to train with SM1 and ASTER 15 missiles. Leonardo has operated the MIRACH 100/5 for 20 years under a managed service arrangement for the Italian armed forces. The new M-40, which is inexpensive to operate and has an endurance of 60 minutes, is now being used to supplement this capability. The company is forecasting an increase in the provision of training services as a key area for sustainable growth.