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Connecting Skies Bridging Continents


Leonardo ranks as the second largest European participant in the 2023 European Defence Fund (EDF) work programme. The European Commission has recently announced the selection of 13 projects involving Leonardo: 11 focused on capacity development and two on research. These projects are part of a total of 54, with participation from 581 companies and entities across 26 European countries, plus Norway.

In line with the Commission’s direction, the successful approach of Leonardo was oriented towards a strong involvement of SMEs, together with the strategic choice of focussing on inclusiveness in the structuring of consortia and teams. In particular, Leonardo will lead two of the main initiatives in the space and air defence categories: Emissary (European Military Integrated Space Situational Awareness and Recognition capability) and E-CUAS (European Counter UAS), featured a strong innovative component for the technologies that will be developed and are among the projects with the highest European funding.



Also noteworthy is Leonardo’s participation in some flagship programmes for the Commission, for its contribution to the strategic autonomy of the continent. Among these are the EPC2 (European Patrol Corvette 2), for prototype development of a new European corvette; ESOCA (European eco-System for Outsized Cargo Airlift), which will build a strategic air transport capacity; NG-MIMA (Next Generation Military Integrated Modular Avionics), dedicated to the design and demonstration of key technologies for future combat aircraft. Finally, MARTE (Main ARmoured Tank of Europe), for the study and design of future land platforms.



The overall EDF budget in 2023 was over 1 billion euros, with funding divided into 265 million for 28 research projects and 766 million for 26 development projects.


Italy ranked first in terms of number of winning projects (35), with eight coordinated initiatives of which Leonardo leads the two most relevant, EMISSARY and E-CUAS, this contributed significantly to Italy’s overall result.

EMISSARY (European Military Integrated Space Situational Awareness and Recognition capability)

The 48-month project aims to improve space domain surveillance at European level, through the development of a network of advanced sensors, both land and space-based, and a Command and Control system, to support multi-domain operations. Among the innovative topics covered, the development of sensors (RF and optical ground-based and on board satellites) to detect, track, identify and characterise space objects in LEO, MEO and GEO orbits. Leonardo coordinates a consortium of 28 industrial partners, 12 SMEs, 5 universities and research institutions, coming from 13 European countries; in particular, it has responsibility for Command and Control, the ground segment, and both land and space radar sensors.

E-CUAS (European Counter Unmanned Aerial System)

The objective of E-CUAS is to design and validate a complete anti-drone solution in the three envisaged scenarios (fixed, mobile and deployable) through a technological demonstrator. The system will have a flexible, modular and scalable architecture to adapt to various scenarios and will integrate new sensors and effectors. Leonardo will coordinate the project and, together with the Italian team, will deal with the integration of the sensors and the validation of the solution through simulation activities and physical demonstration of the mobile C-UAS prototype. The consortium is made up of 15 industrial partners, 9 SMEs, and two research institutions.

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