UK Defence Equipment and Support has granted Leonardo 60 million pounds ($72 million) to design and develop an uncrewed helicopter demonstrator for tracking enemy submarines.
The aircraft, named “Proteus,” will be trialed to evaluate its viability as an alternative to existing vertical take-off vehicles and other larger uncrewed aircraft for Royal Navy intelligence and surveillance.
The Proteus assembly will run for four years, with the first flight expected in 2025.
The chopper will be capable of lifting large payloads and operating under extreme conditions. Beyond anti-submarine warfare, the helicopter is expected to be used in ship-to-ship resupply and search and rescue operations.
The technology embedded in the helicopter is a product of “uncrewed research and innovation programmes ranging from advanced air mobility to uncrewed combat air, counter-[unammend aerial systems] technologies and uncrewed traffic management,” according to Leonardo.
“The global threat is changing, and it is crucial we remain at the forefront of defence innovation,” UK Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin said.
“Exploring cutting-edge, new defence capabilities through programmes with key British manufacturers, will help to ensure our Armed Forces are equipped to deal with the latest threats.”