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Leonardo progresses Excalibur with second 757 airframe acquired for flight-testing

Leonardo has acquired a second aircraft (tail number G-POWH 3) for conversion into the Excalibur FTA (new tail number is G-FTAI). (Leonardo)

Leonardo has acquired a second 757 airframe for its Excalibur Flight Test Aircraft (FTA) project to de-risk the Tempest future fighter that the United Kingdom is developing for the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) with Italy and Japan.

The sensor lead for the Team Tempest industrial group announced the development at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford, England, on 14 July. The company said the acquisition of the airframe is part of a GBP115 million (USD150 million) contract awarded by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to launch the second phase of the Excalibur FTA project, which will support development of the Tempest that will sit at the heart of the UK's Future Combat Air System (FCAS), as well as support capability enhancements for the country's Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning platforms.

“The Excalibur project is a key part of FCAS, which will include the crewed fighter and a broader range of capabilities such as uncrewed aircraft, F-35, information systems, and weapon systems. Central to the development of the crewed fighter is the FTA; a Boeing 757 aircraft that will be completely overhauled, turning it into a flying laboratory for combat air technology,” Leonardo said.

The Excalibur aircraft will be adapted to host Integrated Sensing and Non-kinetic Effects (ISANKE), and Integrated Communications Systems (ICS) that Leonardo and its international partners are developing as part of GCAP. This aircraft is expected to fly with the new technology within the next three years, when onboard scientists and engineers will test the sensors and communications systems while in flight.

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