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Gcap, Leonardo launches the Excalibur project for flight tests in the United Kingdom

Gcap, Leonardo launches the Excalibur project for flight tests in the United Kingdom

With the award of the British Defense contract to Leonardo, the "Excalibur Flight Test Aircraft" (FTA) project enters its next phase, a flight test aircraft for the UK's sixth generation air combat system within the Global Combat Air Program (Gcap), international collaboration between London, Rome and Tokyo

A new phase is underway for the aircraft developed by Leonardo for flight tests of the sixth generation fighter.

Leonardo has announced a contract with the UK Ministry of Defense worth around €134 million (£115 million), which will kick off the next phase of the 'Excalibur Flight Test Aircraft' (FTA) project. The FTA will support the introduction into service of a new combat aircraft, which will form the heart of the UK's Future Combat Air System (FCAS). This new generation fighter will be delivered by 2035 under the Global Combat Air Program (Gcap), an international collaboration between the United Kingdom, Italy and Japan. The latter has effectively combined the British-led Tempest project in which our country participates to replace the Typhoon fighters – with the Japanese FX program.

In September 2021, the Italian aerospace and defense company awarded 2Excel, a British company operating in the aviation services sector, the contract to start the next phase of the FTA test flight programme.

After an initial design phase, work will begin on a second airframe of a Boeing 757 aircraft. This will be transformed, with the support of the British PMI 2Excel, into a laboratory for testing technologies and systems for air combat.

“This contract is a milestone for the FTA project and demonstrates our commitment to support the UK's Future Combat Air System,” said Richard Berthon, Future Combat Air Manager at the UK Ministry of Defence, adding that “I am thrilled that this work will allow us to test, in a real flight environment, some of the most advanced technologies that could be present on aircraft delivered under the Gcap initiative”.

All the details.


The Excalibur project is a key part of the British FCAS. The latter will include, in addition to the manned fighter, a wide range of capabilities, such as drones, F-35s, information systems and weapons systems. At the heart of the development of the manned fighter is the FTA, a Boeing 757 aircraft that will be completely overhauled and transformed into a "flying" laboratory for tests and technological developments, indicates Leonardo's note.

As a founding member of the UK's Tempest partnership in the air combat domain, Leonardo will use the aircraft primarily to test new technologies developed by the trilateral programme. Tempest partners – BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, Rolls Royce and MBDA -, in collaboration with the MoD, continue to collaborate on a range of evaluation and demonstration activities, including Excalibur, to enable the timely delivery of the Gcap defined.

The intentions of the three countries involved in the GCAP include the development of a sixth generation fighter aircraft to be delivered by 2035. According to rumors by Asia Nikkei last month , London is in talks with Tokyo and Rome for the joint development of a next-generation fighter jet demonstrator by 2027.


The first phase of the Excalibur project saw UK PMI 2Excel conduct an engineering study of the 757 airframe to fully understand its construction, which involved British industry experts taking the aircraft apart piece by piece. Thus the team was able to provide a set of design information to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and then allow the second modified aircraft to be certified for flight.

After this first phase, the team acquired the necessary knowledge to undertake the modification of a second specimen. This aircraft, a commercial jet purchased from charter airline Titan Airways, has already arrived at 2Excel's facility in Lasham, Hampshire, ready to be engineered. The new contract will cover the physical modification of the 757, as well as flight testing, certification and work necessary to obtain CAA approval.


The Excalibur aircraft will be adapted to host the sensors and systems that Leonardo and its international partners are developing within the GCAP framework, in particular integrated sensors, non-kinetic effects (ISANKE) and integrated communication systems (ICS). Excalibur is expected to fly with the new technology within the next three years, for flight testing.

“The Excalibur program will help us accelerate the development of the electronic component related to the ISANKE & ICS domain through the first flight tests, which can take place in parallel with the realization of the main platform. This will give a further boost to the program and support our ambitious goal of delivering a next generation combat aircraft by 2035” commented Andrew Howard, Head of Future Combat Air/GCAP UK, Leonardo UK.

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL https://www.startmag.it/smartcity/gcap-leonardo-avvia-nel-regno-unito-il-progetto-excalibur-per-i-test-di-volo/ on Mon, 17 Jul 2023 03:37:29 +0000.