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Leonardo Canada's Success Story: Interview with Francesco Norante.

Leonardo Canada's Success Story: Interview with Francesco Norante.

As a trusted Canadian partner for more than 50 years, Leonardo continues to provide proven solutions and reliable support to its customers from across its aircraft, helicopters, and electronics divisions in-country.

We talked about it with Francesco Norante, President of Leonardo Canada

Hi Francesco, thank you for dedicating your time to us. Tell us about the growth of Leonardo Canada since the official start of operations in Canada.

Today, we have 400 highly skilled employees at five operating sites, and we are ready to provide comprehensive, competitive turnkey solutions that meet our Canadian customers’ requirements.
Leonardo has also implemented new business partnerships in country and collaborations with Universities and Innovation Centres. Our goal is to benefit from the advanced research carried out in Canada and at the same time contribute with Leonardo to the latest R&D technologies.

We are also supporting the growth of women in the Defence sector through the founding of Women in Defence & Security (WiDS), Emerging Leaders, and scholarships for Indigenous students in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering.

What are the main activities carried out by Leonardo Canada in the last 4 years including those not specifically related to the defense system?

A wide part of Leonardo Canada’s current activities is providing the most responding offer and the best perspective - for Canada in the frame of Canada’s Future Aircrew Training (FAcT) program.

As the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) prepares to acquire a fleet of next generation fighter jets, the Canadian government is focused on pilot and aircrew training capabilities. This program will set the stage for the next generation of military aircrew training through the design and delivery of an innovative training solution, comprehensive operational and mission support services and the acquisition of new training aircraft and ground-based training systems.  

Through the Canadian joint venture Babcock Leonardo Canadian Aircrew Training, Leonardo Canada with Babcock Canada and the strongest team of Canadian partners are poised to bring world-class aircrew training to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

With over 70 years of delivering military aircrew training for customers around the world, Babcock Leonardo Canadian Aircrew Training combines in-depth knowledge with a proven track record of building and supporting aircrew training systems that will enable the development of a modern Canadian military aircrew training infrastructure.  

We are fully prepared to provide an innovative, completely integrated, end-to-end military training solution that will generate a robust and efficient flow of Canadian military aircrew for generations to come.

With significant experience in building and managing comprehensive training systems, Babcock Leonardo Canadian Aircrew Training will enable the development of modern and scalable military aircrew training infrastructure to be delivered in Canada by Canadians.

Tell us about latest successes of Leonardo Canada.

In December 2022, the Canadian Department of National Defence awarded Leonardo a $1 billion CAN (€690 million) contract for the AW101/CH-149 “Cormorant” Mid-Life Upgrade (CMLU) Project.
This is for 16 aircraft in total, comprising 13 existing Cormorant Search and Rescue Helicopter (CSH) currently in-service and the augmentation of a further three aircraft.

The contract will enhance the aircraft’s systems and technologies, ensure compliance with emerging airspace requirements, extend the life expectancy of the fleet to 2042+ and enable the return of Cormorant helicopters to the Main Operating Base (MOB) Trenton.

In May 2022, Leonardo introduced Newton, a software product which simulates the latest threats to armed forces and the countermeasures they can take to improve survivability. Newton can be used to accelerate and validate the development of new electronic warfare (EW) technologies, tactics, and techniques. The virtual, physics-based environment allows new technologies to be digitally modelled and virtually tested in a true-to-life environment which replicates the battlefields of today and tomorrow. 

Newton is also the first commercial tool on the market to simulate integrated defensive aid suites across the electro-optic (EO), infrared (IR) and radio frequency (RF) sensors and effectors for land, sea, and air forces. Another first-to-market feature is its ability to portray the kind of complex multi-threat, multi-mode engagements that armed forces will be expected to face in near-peer conflicts.

The ability to simulate a modern and congested EW environment makes Newton useful for a wide range of purposes including the development of operational tactics and electronic countermeasures, validation, support for advanced research and development and pre-operational mission simulation. Leonardo’s EW software is in use by armed forces, research agencies, OEMs, and defence suppliers.

Newton replaces the company’s Tactical Engagement Simulation Software (TESS™) product in Leonardo’s portfolio and builds on over 30 years of EW modelling and simulation experience at the company’s Ottawa-based Leonardo Canada – Electronics subsidiary. As with all of Leonardo’s electronic warfare capabilities, as well as providing the product itself, Leonardo can provide training and support from a basic level all the way up to helping to establish national EW centres of excellence for a customer’s Armed Forces. 

In September 2021 it was announced that Transport Canada’s National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP) was set to benefit from the advanced surveillance capabilities of Leonardo’s Osprey radar. Crews conducting missions to help Canada stay safe will benefit from the radar’s powerful oil-spill detection and vessel tracking capabilities. 

Osprey is Leonardo’s latest-generation E-scan (electronically-scanning) surveillance radar which employs a digital beam to almost-instantaneously detect, track and classify hundreds of maritime contacts, in 360-degrees around the aircraft. 

ST Airborne Systems will integrate the Osprey radar onto one of NASP’s iconic red Dash-8 aircraft, based in Ottawa. The multi-domain nature of Osprey makes it ideally suited to supporting NASP’s environmental protection mission in mixed environment operations along Canada’s coastline. 

One of the key goals of Transport Canada’s NASP is to prevent pollution in Canadian waters, protecting the maritime environment and endangered marine life. The Osprey radar will be a powerful new tool in the delivery of this mission, with the ability to identify oil spills and rogue polluters at very long range, day or night.

What are the new projects? Can you tell us something?

For Leonardo, a key project in the near future is the advance training segment for Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The programme named ‘Future Fighter Lead-in Training (FFLIT)’ is the syllabus following the completion of FAcT and will allow RCAF pilots to learn advanced techniques to operate high performance jet aircrafts.

Leonardo has significant experience in advance training as we have inaugurated the International Flight Training School (IFTS) in Italy for military pilots from the world’s air forces. The Royal Canadian Air Force has been one of the first Air Forces to be part of this programme and at Leonardo we are very proud of this strategic collaboration.

Leonardo is also focused on the NORAD modernization and the Artic security with our platforms and radars. We are aiming to expand our participation in key Defence programmes such as Canadian Combatant Surface (CSC) and Polar Icebreaker.

In the civilian market, Leonardo has plans to strengthen our partnerships with NAV CANADA and Environment Canada for the radars programmes. The same approach we will have with Canada Post for the package handling.

How is Leonardo Canada operating, in relation to the First Nations economy?

One of the ways is through the provision of funding support from Leonardo Canada for the Orbis Canada launch of a new study with the potential to revolutionize the way people living with diabetes in remote or underserved communities are screened for diabetic eye disease, particularly diabetic retinopathy.

The traditional approach to screening for DR involves taking a picture of the back of a patient’s eye, which is then analyzed by an ophthalmologist or specially trained image grader. For Canadians living in remote communities where access to an ophthalmologist is limited, getting screened isn’t always possible. In many remote northern communities in Canada, the nearest ophthalmologist could be many hundreds of kilometers away.

Leonar­do Cana­da is proud to sup­port Orbis Cana­da, an orga­ni­za­tion which is under­tak­ing crit­i­cal work with local com­mu­ni­ties that suf­fer with dia­bet­ic eye dis­ease. As a trust­ed Cana­di­an part­ner for more than 50 years, we are hon­oured to con­tribute to this impor­tant fund­ing development.

Through this study, Orbis Canada aims to demonstrate how this technology can improve access to eye screening for Canadians living with diabetes in remote areas by bringing the diagnostic capacity of a specialist to the community – wherever that community may be. This screening approach also reduces the need for multiple appointments or unnecessary travel for patients to see a specialist, while at the same time reducing demand on ophthalmologists and allowing them to focus on more urgent patient care needs.

Linked with Question 2, through the Canadian joint venture Babcock Leonardo Canadian Aircrew Training, Leonardo Canada with Babcock Canada and the strongest team of Canadian partners are poised to bring world-class aircrew training to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

The Canadian Government is seeking to procure a comprehensive aircrew training program that provides aircraft, ground based training systems, civilian instructors, as well as other essential services, such as air traffic control, aircraft and airfield maintenance, accommodation, and food services for the Royal Canadian Air Force. The 25-year contract is expected to be awarded in 2023.

FAcT offers Canada an opportunity to redesign and implement a fully integrated aircrew training solution that meets the needs of the Royal Canadian Air Force, while also providing longer term economic benefits and opportunities for Canadian businesses and Indigenous communities.

Our Canadian team is committed to building on existing long-term relationships and partnerships with the Canadian Government and Canadian industry, and we will continue to grow our Canadian supply chain and will work with local communities and Indigenous partners to add value to the Country now and in the future.

The BLCAT solution will provide economic opportunities for Canadians across the country and will focus on inclusivity and opportunity for under-represented groups and Indigenous Peoples and businesses long-term.

We are committed to building on existing relationships with Canadian partners and growing our domestic supply chain further. FAcT is a truly a generational program. We have an opportunity to engage at the grassroots level from the beginning – to implement skills development and training programs, to develop an inclusive workforce strategy, and to partner with diverse businesses from coast-to-coast.

Tell us about role of Leonardo Canada as leader of the “Italian System” in Canada.

Leonardo is one of the most important manufacturing companies in Italy and we are committed to collaborating with other Italian industries in order to make the best of our technologies available to Canada.

At the same time we want to facilitate the collaboration with Canadian companies; so that they can establish industrial collaboration with our group and have access to the Italian and European market.

What is commitment of Leonardo Canada in the Arctic Region?

Leonardo is an industrial participant in ARCSAR – the Arctic and North Atlantic Security and Emergency Preparedness Network, a five-year EU programme funded through the Horizon 2020, which aims to promote collaboration in security, emergency-response activities and sustainable technology development in the Arctic region. The ARCSAR project involves 13 countries and is led by the Joint Rescue and Coordination Center of Northern Norway.

As part of ARCSAR, Leonardo contributes with its unique heritage, expertise and innovation in areas including SAR helicopters such as those already used by Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United Kingdom, radar systems, maritime patrol systems, communications, satellite imagery and analysis, and integrated solutions that can control and mitigate the effects of climate change. Leonardo’s approach to climate change is in line with Sustainable Development Goal 13 of the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda.

For example, Leonardo, through e-GEOS, supported the navigation of the Alliance ship during the "HIGH NORTH" Arctic Campaign in the years 2018, 2019 and 2020 which saw the Italian Navy engaged alongside national and international research bodies.

The potential of satellites then increases exponentially if big data analytics and artificial intelligence techniques are applied to the data acquired. For this purpose, Leonardo provides the powerful computing capabilities of its laboratories and application platforms such as SEonSE (Leonardo's geospatial platform for maritime safety) and CLEOS (a digital market place that allows you to quickly and easily access everything within the e-GEOS product portfolio). These capabilities are fundamental, considering the gradual and progressive availability of new information sources and the need to automate their processing. With these platforms, data is also compared with historical information and habitual behaviour, allowing the identification of anomalous behaviours and potential security threats. The result is timely and easily accessible information, useful for identifying possible risks, signalled by automatically generated alert notifications, intercepting the responsible ships, planning the actions of the competent authorities and tracing safe routes in hostile environments.

Furthermore, Leonardo, through e-GEOS, is at the helm of the consortium that will develop the ARCOS early warning system for the European Commission. This system will allow continuous monitoring of the Arctic region to identify any critical issues in a timely manner, integrating data from satellites, but also from non-spatial sources, with artificial intelligence and big data analytics.

Finally, Leonardo is participating in the H2020 ARCSAR (Arctic and North Atlantic Security and Emergency Preparedness Network) project, led by the Norwegian institution JRCCNN, which involves a total of 21 partners. The project promotes innovative themes related to Search & Rescue in the Arctic and to the necessary equipment.

Tell us about role and commitment of Leonardo Canada in the Canadian R&D System.

Leonardo is investing in innovation, technology transfer, intellectual property, research and development, and long-term relationships and partnerships with the Canadian Government, Canadian industry including small to medium enterprises. 

Leonardo has established an Open Innovation model sourcing ideas from external sources as well as internal ones. This innovative approach created a unique relationship with customers who became co-producers as well. We are collaborating with Universities (i.e. University of Outaouais), Innovation Centres (Gatineau; Sherbrook) and through the Leonardo Business Innovation Factory we have collaborations with Canadian start-ups.