The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has received the first of three leased Dassault Falcon 7X business jets to replace the Bombardier Challenger CL-604 jets operated by 34SQN in Canberra as VIP special purpose aircraft (SPA).
The first of the three Falcon 7X aircraft, A56-001, arrived at Defence Establishment Fairbairn, Canberra, on Tuesday, Defence said in a statement. It was painted in familiar RAAF VIP fleet colours.
The Falcon 7X, powered by three P&W PW307A engines, represented a major capability leap from the smaller CL-604, given its larger passenger load, modern flight deck, satellite communications capability and increased range.
The business jet also has good short-field performance and a low pavement rating, allowing it to operate into remote and regional airfields.
Commanding Officer of 34SQN Wing Commander Jason Pont said the Dassault Falcon 7X would have a standard crew of three – pilot, co-pilot and flight attendant – and have seating for 14 passengers.
“With a maximum operating speed of Mach 0.9 and a range of up to 11,000 km, the aircraft can fly from Canberra to anywhere in the world with only one stop,” Wing Commander Pont said in a statement.
“Its ability to land at almost any airfield provides notable regional and remote airfield accessibility.”
Since 2001, Northrop Grumman Integrated Defence Services IDS (previously Qantas Defence Services) has delivered through-life support to 34 Squadron at Defence Establishment Fairbairn, which operates the current SPA fleet of two Boeing Business Jets (BBJs) and three Bombardier Challenger 604s.
The two BBJs were staying with the SPA fleet.
The acquisition of the three Falcon 7X aircraft dates back to November 2015, when Defence released a Request for Proposal (RFP) seeking a managing contractor to provide services for the maintenance, support and replacement of the Special Purpose Aircraft (SPA) fleet.
The purpose of the RFP, which closed in February 2016, was to identify and assess the feasibility, risk, affordability, value and overall suitability of the range of available capability options and managing contractor methodologies.
Defence undertook an evaluation, and two companies were shortlisted from the RFP respondents in June 2016.
In August 2016, Defence initiated a project definition study to engage with the shortlisted respondents to collaboratively finalise contract requirements and develop a Request for Tender (RFT).
The RFT was released to the two shortlisted companies in December 2016, and in February 2017 the industry respondents tabled their tenders to Defence.
Meanwhile, Defence in 2017 exercised options that extended the SPA maintenance and support arrangement with Northrop Grumman IDS until September 2019 to align with the lease terms of the current fleet.
Defence said on Tuesday the SPA fleet would continue to be maintained by Northrop Grumman.
VIDEO: A look at the Dassault Falcon 7X from the manufacturer’s YouTube channel.