The Department of Defence has confirmed the acquisition of two Gulfstream G550 aircraft modified for surveillance and electronic warfare.
“The Australia Government entered into a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) arrangement through the United States Air Force for the procurement of two Gulfstream G550 aircraft,” a Department spokesperson told Australian Aviation via an emailed statement on Thursday.
“The aircraft will be modified to provide an airborne intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic warfare (ISREW) capability to support ADF operations for Australia.”
The acquisition was revealed when the US Department of Defense announced a US$93.6 million FMS contract for the aircraft on December 28.
Information on the acquisition and the aircraft’s capabilities remain scant, but it seems probable the aircraft are being acquired to replace the ELINT capabilities of the RAAF’s AP-3C Orions, which in their maritime surveillance role are being replaced by the Boeing P-8A Poseidon later this decade.
“Further details on the capability will be provided in the Integrated Investment Program due for release this year with the Defence White Paper,” the Defence spokesperson said.
“The acquisition was undertaken through Foreign Military Sales because the ISREW program and its interoperability with other defence capabilities is only available through the USAF. The two aircraft will cost USD $93.6 million.”
The original US DoD announcement was brief, noting that: “L-3 Communications Mission Integration, Greenville, Texas, has been awarded a $93,632,287 firm fixed-price undefinitised contract action task order (1648) for Australia Government G550 aircraft procurement and maintenance. Work will be performed at Greenville, Texas, and is expected to be complete by November 30, 2017.”
A number of special missions versions of Gulfstream’s family of corporate jets are in military service worldwide, with the Israeli Air Force, for example, operating SEMA ‘Special Electronic Missions Aircraft’ ELINT modified Gulfstream G550s.