Leonardo has announced a strategic collaboration with O2 (Telefónica UK) to explore the use of 5G private networks in the defence and security sector.

The defence firm’s Edinburgh-based Innovation and Technology Incubator Centre will work with O2 to demonstrate the advantages of 5G technology.

For the evaluation, O2 will offer a secure 5G private network and a range of Industry 4.0 applications.

Leonardo UK chair and managing director Norman Bone said: “5G will be an important tool for the UK’s aerospace, defence and security industry as we look to stay competitive in the global market and continue to export products and services from the UK.

“This partnership with O2 will inform the roll-out of this technology within Leonardo and study its wider potential across our industry and customer base.”

According to the companies, one of the demonstrations will include wirelessly delivering mission, support and maintenance data updates to aircraft such as the Leonardo AW159 Wildcat helicopter.

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In another initiative, the partners will test the potential use of 5G-enabled technology in Leonardo’s manufacturing facilities.

The two initiatives are expected to support programmes such as the next-generation combat air system Tempest.

O2 Business MD Jo Bertram said: “The partnership will explore how we can use 5G private networks in the wider defence sector, demonstrating their capability to help digitally transform a business and leveraging our ability to draw from a deep and rich application ecosystem.

“It’s great to be working on such an exciting programme, to leverage the technical capabilities of both businesses that’ll have real positive impacts on network solutions, mobility and security.”

In May last year, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (OUSD) for Research and Engineering (R&E) and USAFWC at Nellis AFB in Nevada partnered to build a 5G cellular network.