Leonardo and its partners have started the first operational demonstration of the European maritime awareness programme, OCEAN2020, in the Gulf of Taranto.

Open Cooperation for European mAritime awareNess (OCEAN2020) is a pan-European military research project funded by the EU’s Preparatory Action on Defence Research.

The Leonardo-led project is an initiative to strengthen technological research in the naval domain.

It involves the integration of unmanned platforms with the command and control centres of naval units for increased situational awareness.

The live exercise will include nine remotely piloted systems, six naval units, two ground communications networks, four Maritime Operation Centres (MOCs).

The data collected during the demonstration will be sent to a prototype command centre (EU MOC) located in Brussels.

The two-day demonstration will primarily evaluate the use of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) in maritime surveillance and interdiction operations.

Leonardo noted that the OCEAN2020 exercise will be coordinated at sea by the Italian Navy.

The assets will participate in operational scenarios including the interception of an enemy mine-laying ship and a mission to interdict a hostile vessel.

Leonardo said in a statement: “The demonstration will also provide an opportunity to assess integration and interoperability capabilities at a European level as well as in the context of joint operations with Nato.”

The company is providing the surveillance, communication and defence equipment on board two FREMM frigates of the Italian Navy.

The demonstration will also involve Leonardo’s AW HERO and SW-4 SOLO remotely piloted helicopters.

The OCEAN2020 consortium comprises 42 partners from 15 European nations. In addition to Leonardo, the project involves Saab, Hensoldt, MBDA, PGZ/CTM, Indra, Safran, Fincantieri and QinetiQ.

The second demonstration of the project is planned for 2020 in the Baltic Sea.