For the first time Leonardo has unveiled in public its weapon wing system that is to equip UK AW159 Wildcat HMA2 maritime helicopters during the Royal Navy's (RN's) Carrier Strike Group 2021 (CSG21) deployment.
The UK-arm of the Italian company displayed one of the first production wings during the UK Naval Engineering Science & Technology (UKNEST) engagement activity aboard the second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales on 2 March as part of its week-long visit to Liverpool.
Speaking to Jane's , Louis Wilson-Chalon, maritime marketing manager at Leonardo Helicopters UK, said the system's aerodynamic design meant each wing created 360 kg of lift, significantly improving the endurance of the helicopter.
The aluminium alloy and carbon fibre composite weapon wings enable a mix of weapons to be carried for a variety of force protection scenarios. This includes a full load of 20 Thales Martlet air-to-surface and up to four MBDA Sea Venom anti-ship missiles, or a mix of two Sea Venoms and 10 Martlets.
Wilson-Chalon said environment trials have been carried out on Wildcats as part of the testing programme under way ahead of the CSG21 deployment to the Middle East and Pacific regions due next year. The tests will culminate in the live firing of weapons.
It is expected that during CSG21, RN Wildcats will operate from Type 23 frigates and Type 45 destroyers rather than be embarked on the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth itself, as part of the service's layered defence concept.
The Sea Venom is not to formally enter service with the RN until January 2022, so the Wildcat will only be equipped with Martlet missiles and door guns, as well as BAE Stingray anti-submarine torpedoes and Mark 11 depth charges, during CSG21.
Want to read more? For analysis on this article and access to Jane's unrivalled data and insight, learn more about our subscription options at janes.com/products