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Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) technology is central to all military operations as it acts as a modern-day ‘challenge and response’ password system based on automated electronic signals. This ensures that forces can recognize friends, which when contacted will reply with the correct signal, and identify potentially hostile vehicles that will not.  

All NATO nations are mandated to switch to the new Mode-5 standard IFF by 2020, which uses advanced cryptographic techniques to secure the systems against electronic deception by adversaries. According to, this is important when forces are operating together because ensuring that ground, air and naval crews can reliably recognize their allies is one of the main ways of avoiding so-called ‘friendly fire’ incidents. Other nations that want to conduct operations alongside NATO countries will also need to upgrade to the Mode-5 IFF standard.

Japan, which is a major NATO ally although not a member, is procuring new friend or foe equipment for its soldiers. Leonardo has been awarded a EUR 5 million ($5.45 million) contract to provide Mode 5-capable identification IFF equipment for four platforms operated by the Japan Ground Self Defense Force.

The IFF Mode 5 M426 LPI Interrogator and SIT2010 Crypto Applique encryption unit as the service will be provided switching over to the latest Mode 5 standard.

“Having already delivered its SIT-422/5J interrogator equipment for the JGSDF, by supplying the Mode-5 M426 LPI interrogator and SIT2010 crypto, Leonardo will provide a complete digital Mode-5-ready capability in a compact, lightweight package,” cites the company.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has recently ordered from Leonardo and HENSOLDT an IFF upgrade technology for more than 350 of the UK’s operational aircraft, naval vessels and ground-based air defense systems to the latest ‘Mode-5’ standard.