Italian Navy’s NH90 NATO frigate helicopters (NHSs) are set to receive new generation friend or foe identification systems following a contract with Leonardo.
Under a contract worth €11 million, which the company announced on February 21, the NH90 aircraft will be fitted with a system called SIT434/5 which will provide the helicopters with Mode 5 IFF capability.
IFF allows operators to identify friendly forces and distinguish them from potential threats. It does this by transmitting a ‘challenge’ signal to unidentified aircraft and verifying the automatic responses received, effectively a modern-day call-and-response password system.
The SIT434/5 interrogator, which was developed under the multinational New-Generation IFF (NGIFF) programme, is the part of an IFF system that sends out the ‘challenge’ signal. In addition to its provision for Italian Forces, Leonardo has sold the interrogator to a number of export customers.
NATO members will need to have Mode 5-compatible equipment, which provides better encryption security and other advantages over older systems, installed by 2020 when the old Mode 4 signal is scheduled to be turned off. This means that the SIT434/5 will allow Italy’s NH90 NFH to continue to operate jointly with NATO allies post-2020.
In a separate announcement the company said it delivered the first NH90 MITT (Maritime – Italian Navy Tactical Transport) helicopter to the Italian Navy.
Designated as ‘MH-90’ by its operator, the aircraft is the first of ten MH-90s the Italian Navy will use for amphibious support and special forces operations. The MH-90 combines the main features of the type for land tactical transport duties, such as the rear ramp and mission equipment, together with the features of the naval NH90 such as optimised landing gear and dynamics for ship operations.
The MITT variant will add to the NFH (Nato Frigate Helicopter) aircraft in service and on order by the Italian Navy for other specialised tasks of which 23 have been delivered to date.