Special missions Gulfstream 550s for the RAAF?

Israel operates G550s modified for ELINT.

L-3 Communications will modify an unspecified number of Gulfstream G550 aircraft for Australia under a US$93.6 million foreign military sales deal announced by the US Department of Defense on December 28.

“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,” the short contract award notice reads.

“Work will be performed at Greenville, Texas, and is expected to be complete by November 30, 2017.”

The Australian Government has yet to publicly announce a requirement for special missions aircraft – presumably to be operated by the RAAF – but such a project could be confirmed by the forthcoming Defence White Paper.

The Gulfstream 550 is better known as a 14-19 passenger, 6,750nm range corporate jet, but various special missions variants are in military service, most notably in both CAEW ‘Conformal Airborne Early Warning’ and SEMA ‘Special Electronic Missions Aircraft’ ELINT forms with the Israeli Air Force. Singapore also operates G550 CAEWs, while the type has also been ordered by Italy and the US Navy (as a range monitoring aircraft).

L-3’s Mission Integration unit at Greenville (formerly E-Systems), meanwhile, specialises “in the modernisation and maintenance of aircraft of all sizes, and the study, design, development, and integration of special-mission systems for military and commercial applications”, according to the company’s website.

L-3 is also part of a Northrop Grumman-led teaming to offer a variant of the G550 for the US Air Force’s E-8C JSTARS replacement program.


  1. adammudhen says

    I would assume for ELINT roles as AEW&C is very well covered. I assume this will be to replace the AP-3Cs modified to quasi-EP-3 status some years ago as they retire.

    With no ELINT P-8, the G550 would fill that gap with say 2-3 aircraft.

    Time will tell

  2. Derrick says

    Could be a stop gap between the P3 and when the new P8 comes online, or just for training, just a thought.
    Now wait for the comments to come in that we need 20 or more for no good reason….. looking at you Corey

  3. Steve says

    Wikipedia says 2011 cost of a G550 is USD53M so I expect only one (1) aircraft is being purchased and modified – with a possible option for one more later.

  4. corey says

    I don’t know what you’re expecting me to say about it derrick. But we could probably use at least another 8, serviceability rate will only be good for the first 4-6 years, then should expect to drop off. Anything less than 4 would be ludicrous.

  5. Craigy says

    The FMS would be the equipment going into the plane. Buying a Gulfstream by a government is not subject to the FMS process. So the dollar value would be for the kit and support.

  6. Shane says

    The 550 has exceptional duty burning range.

    Will it be given & crewed potentially by Cobham ( 4 the RAAF ) 4 the upcoming Japanese Whaling Season ?

    Our Antarctic 42% claimed territorial slice needs to be watched, considering the funding Russia & China have allocated recently 2 their bases.

    Hmmm > > >

  7. Peter B says

    From Flight global at https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/l-3-g550-contract-suggests-new-raaf-elintsigint-jet-420465/

    …In a 28 December contract award, the USAF granted a $92.6 contract for an “undefinitized contract action task order” to modify two Gulfstream G550 aircraft.”….

    I haven’t been able to verify Flight Global’s source but, like Steve and Sean, I cannot see how the stated amount will cover 2 aircraft.

    I think the SIGINT P-3s spent a lot of time operating from Amberely. I wonder where the G550 will be based.

    Finally, has anyone ever heard of a RAAF C-130 using SIGINT equipment loaded on pallets rather than being a fixed installation? I am sure I saw a TV clip on this but could never verify it afterwards.

  8. Corey says

    Hi this is the real Corey unless there is another Corey that comments as well. TBH I’ve got no idea what these aircraft would be used for. Maybe they might be EP-3 replacement aircraft or a whole new role as a Military upgraded VIP jets or some type of training aircraft. Anyway it new aircraft for our ageing ADF fleets! Also with the USAF Joint Stars replacement I think it will go to Boeing based P-8 AGS as it has more room to grow, very large long lasting spare and repair part supply chine all over the world. As the Boeing propose is based on the 737 it has way more to offer then the competitors with thousands of 737s flying around the world to day, has room to grow and add new systems, allows room for crew rest area, more power and less training costs.

  9. Jeff says

    FMS can be and is used for such things as an off-the-shelf bizjet. Items bought through FMS can be 100% paid for by U.S. foreign aid funds, 100% paid for by the end-user, or some combination of the two. Using FMS rather than DCC (Direct Commercial Contract) allows the customer to make use of an existing procurement agency rather than reinventing the wheel. Because Uncle Sam is already buying the G550 for itself, Australia can take advantage of that to obtain militarised, or mil-ready, aircraft. It can also simplify certification and if the RAAF chooses to use the same training for aircrew and techs, there’s an economy of scale by doing it via the existing American contracts rather than negotiating new ones. It’s a common misconception that FMS means foreign aid, but it’s apples and oranges. There’s even something similar within the U.S. DoD. For example, the USAF is the lead buyer for all C-130s purchased by Uncle Sam. It’s the biggest customer and there’s simply no need for the USN, USMC, and USCG to duplicate the procurement office. They simply second some of their own people to look after their unique requirements and otherwise make use of the Air Force’s C-130 System Program Office. That SPO also handles all foreign purchases of C-130s that go through FMS.

  10. Jason says

    Looks like Flightglobal has drawn the link to the U.S.A.F’s Bi9 Safari program, some interesting reading online about that and the role it plays in developing existing commercial or transport airframes into high-end ISR assets.

    I would suggest watching Japanese whaling ops is a fairly low priority for such a capability.

  11. MikeofPerth says

    TimC69 I believe the order is for 2 airframes to replace the 2 equivalent configured Orions.

    Would I be correct in assuming if there is only 2 airframes that this is not a capability that is required to be available on short notice or be deployed out of our region, as the usual ‘rule of 3’ is obviously not being followed?

  12. andrew says

    From my info its two airframes. The key of course is such ELINT/SIGINT assets as currently supported are the specialised P3Orion convered airframes of which Australia currently only has two. Of course these are being replaced as part of the P8 replacements , so with the P3 fleet gone, Australia needs an urgent replacement for these airframes. Whilst I hear the comment about the rule of 3 , this generally doesn’t apply to such resources that are tasked to ops for ASD and other Intel Agencies. Obviously their ops are highly classified, but there were reports of such assets being deployed in support of our operations over Iraq & Afghanistan in recent years and this capability is certainly now required as part of the capabilities to identify and degrade the activities of terrorist organisation and of course now with the EA-18G Growler capability gives Australia the serious ability to operational degrade such communications capabilities.

  13. Jason says

    The ‘rule of 3’ doesn’t necessarily apply here as there are probably other assets in the RAAF with ELINT/SIGINT capabilities, though perhaps just not at that ‘high-end’.

    Also, being based on a mature bizjet design, the availability is likely to be quite high.