Northrop Grumman and Leonardo have agreed to join forces to pursue opportunities in the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) domain together.

The strategic partnership builds on an existing collaboration between the two companies that dates to 1995 when they jointly developed the AN/AAQ-24(V) Nemesis Directional Infrared Counter Measures (DIRCM) for the US and the UK.

Currently, Leonardo and Northrop Grumman are working on the US Army’s Common Infrared Countermeasures (CIRCM) programme.

As agreed, the two companies now plan to partner on air vehicle design, system architectures, payload optimisation and integration within next-generation battlespace architectures.

The collaboration will leverage Leonardo’s expertise in rotorcraft designs and Northrop Grumman’s capabilities in advanced aeronautics and autonomous uncrewed aerial systems.

Northrop Grumman UK, Europe, Middle East CEO Nick Chaffey said: “Northrop Grumman has decades of experience and unmatched expertise in developing and delivering uncrewed and autonomous aerial systems, including the RQ-4 Global Hawk, MQ-8C Fire Scout, Firebird, a UAS that has the capability to be flown manned, and the pioneering X-47B aircraft.

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“There are many possibilities that our collaboration with Leonardo will deliver for customers worldwide as they look to solve new challenges in a complex, unpredictable threat environment.”

Leonardo Helicopters managing director Gian Piero Cutillo said: “This collaboration comes at a time when we see emerging military and civil requirements worldwide in the uncrewed domain.

“This partnership will enable a strong and concerted approach to existing, as well as next-generation VTOL UAS technologies from two leading global aerospace engineering companies.”

Last month, Northrop Grumman opened a new facility in Colorado Springs, US. The facility includes advanced engineering, research labs and software development factories.