radar Scottish enterprise drone

Scottish taxpayers fund radar for drone armed with air-to-air missiles

A radar funded by Scottish taxpayers has been developed for a drone used in warfare that can be armed with air-to-air missiles and cannons.

The Osprey 30 radar is made by Italian arms firm Leonardo which has a factory in Edinburgh employing around 1800 people.

Leonardo, which made £440m profit in 2018, has been given nearly £20m of taxpayers’ money in grants from Scottish Enterprise (SE), the Scottish Government’s business agency.

The Scottish Government’s business agency gives grants to arms companies but insists it does not fund weapons.

However, The Ferret can reveal that Leonardo’s radar is being marketed for use on a drone called the Icarus Tactical Air Vehicle, aka TAV, which can be fitted with deadly weaponry.

In response, critics have called on Scottish Enterprise to end its funding to Leonardo. They include Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) which said SE “cannot be oblivious to the deadly consequences of the research and development it is funding”.

Scottish Enterprise has defended its grants to Leonardo, however, claiming its aim was to help the company diversify its production.

We reported in March that the Osprey 30 had been marketed to countries with poor human rights records at one of the world’s largest arms fairs.

Scottish Enterprise said then its funding to Leonardo was to support the development of the Osprey radar system for use by the “Norwegian search and rescue service”.


Leonardo is now promoting the radar for use in warfare on TAV. It recently said: “Unveiled in the summer of 2020, the Icarus Aerospace Tactical Air Vehicle (TAV) is the first airframe to be designed with Osprey fitted conformally.

“The radar will support the aircraft’s mission to provide multi-domain operations such as communication relay, aerial refueling, battlefield management, re-arm and re-supply and medivac, with crew, remotely piloted or as a fully autonomous system.”

Leonardo added: “While military and civilian fixed and rotary wing aircraft are already benefiting from Osprey’s outstanding capabilities, Leonardo is seeing an increasing requirement for its Osprey radars to be fitted on unmanned platforms.”

TAV is promoted by Icarus as having “90 per cent of the mission capability of modern fighter! 15 per cent of the cost of modern combat jet!” The fully militarised version of TAV is called “Wasp” and can be used for counter-insurgency and “special ops coverage”.

Emma Cockburn, Scotland coordinator of Campaign Against Arms Trade, called on the Scottish government to stop funding arms firms, arguing that Osprey 30 “further undermines” its claim that grants are for civilian applications rather than weaponry.

She added: “We don’t know how this technology will be used in future, or which repressive regimes it will be sold to. Leonardo has a long and shameful history of arming despots, dictatorships and human rights abusers. Its weapons have been used in conflict zones around the world.


“Companies like Leonardo don’t care how their weapons are used or who they are used against. The Scottish Government must take action and stop funding them. It’s long past time for it to stop pouring money into arms companies.”

Scottish Greens MSP John Finnie also called for an end to taxpayers’ funding for the arms trade. He said: “It’s simply not credible for the Scottish Government to claim that the funding it has provided is to be used for search and rescue purposes when Leonardo’s own website describes the ‘battlefield management’ capabilities of this drone, and how it can be used to ‘re-arm’.

“It’s time that the Scottish Government stopped pumping public money into the arms trade, and instead invested these much needed funds into our hard pressed public services,” Finnie added.

In reply, a Scottish Enterprise spokesperson said Leonardo was provided funding for the “diversification of its business”.

“This included development of the Osprey radar solution, which was first utilised by Norway’s search and rescue services,” the spokesperson added. “However, if the technology has the potential to support security and safety efforts elsewhere, then it could be deployed in that capacity.”

“Our work with the aerospace, defence and marine sector is focused on supporting companies to diversify and bring innovative technologies to market. We work closely with the companies we support to ensure the projects we part-fund are delivered in line with the expected economic impacts.”

Radar funded by Scottish Enterprise marketed to regimes abusing human rights

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The export of arms is the responsibility of the UK Government, and we expect them to properly police such exports and to properly investigate any concerns raised.

“The Scottish Government does not provide funding for the manufacture of munitions – either directly or via Scottish Enterprise. The support provided is focused on helping firms to diversify and develop non-military applications for their technology and ensure Scotland continues to benefit from the thousands of jobs in the defence, aerospace and shipbuilding sectors.

“Human rights due diligence checks have now been fully rolled out and are a normal part of the Scottish Enterprise application process. This extends the due diligence checking on investment decisions that was already taking place in Scotland.”

Leonardo is a sponsor of the AOC Electronic Warfare Europe arms event, which is due to be held in Liverpool from 16 to 18 November 2020.

Leonardo has been asked to comment.

Photo thanks to Icarus.

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