Leonardo has received a contract from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to design and develop an uncrewed helicopter demonstrator for the Royal Navy.

The estimated value of this four-year contract is approximately £60m.

The development of this 3t-demonstrator, also called Proteus, is part of the UK Defence Rotary Strategy, which seeks to upgrade and improve the readiness and capabilities of nation’s helicopter fleet.

The related work will support around 100 highly skilled engineering jobs at Leonardo’s facility in Yeovil.

This contract also marks the beginning of Phase 3 in the rotary wing uncrewed air system (RWUAS) technology demonstration programme (TDP).

In the Phase 1 and 2 of the programme, Leonardo conducted a number of advanced researches for the RWUAS.

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Under the latest phase, the company will prepare the prototype for its maiden flight in 2025.

This will be followed by demonstrator’s trials that will be conducted by Leonardo to test the aircraft on demanding anti-submarine warfare patrols.

UK Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin said: “The global threat is changing, and it is crucial we remain at the forefront of defence innovation.

“Exploring cutting-edge, new defence capabilities through programmes with key British manufacturers, will help to ensure our armed forces are equipped to deal with the latest threats.”

Proteus is a cost-effective platform that will reduce exposure of the Royal Navy’s personnel to potential threats.

The new capability aims to deliver an alternative for the Royal Navy’s existing aircraft used for tracking adversary submarines.

The aircraft is also expected to provide improved surveillance and intelligence capabilities along with the ability to perform ship-to-ship resupply and casualty evacuation.

Furthermore, this rotorcraft will allow redeployment of the Royal Navy’s crewed helicopters on alternative missions, boosting nation’s defence capability.