Northrop Grumman says it will maintain the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) special purpose aircraft (SPA) fleet for at least the next six years as part of a contract extension.
The “sole source, 18-year rolling wave contract” had an initial period of six years for the sustainment and maintenance of the SPA VIP fleet valued at $84 million, Northrop Grumman said in a statement on Thursday.
The work covered logistics, maintenance, engineering and training support for the SPA fleet of two Boeing 737 BBJ aircraft and three Dassault Falcon 7X business jets that are replacing three Challenger CL604s.
Northrop Grumman said it would also continue to support the three CL604s until their withdrawal from the fleet.
“This award is a reflection of our team’s support to the RAAF and the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group, especially through our work on the SPA, KC-30A and C- 27J programs,” Northrop Grumman Australia chief executive Chris Deeble said.
“As a leader in platform stewardship and global fleet management, we look forward to maintaining our 100 per cent mission capable rate.”
Since 2001, Northrop Grumman Integrated Defence Services IDS (previously Qantas Defence Services) has delivered through-life support to 34 Squadron at Defence Establishment Fairbairn in Canberra.
And in 2017, Defence 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.
The first of the three Falcon 7X aircraft, A56-001, arrived at Defence Establishment Fairbairn, Canberra, on April 16. 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.
All three Falcon 7X aircraft have been acquired via lease.
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 on April 16.
“Its ability to land at almost any airfield provides notable regional and remote airfield accessibility.”
Defence had said on April 16 the SPA fleet would continue to be maintained by Northrop Grumman, without offering details.
The SPA fleet will be further boosted later in 2019 when the RAAF takes delivery of a KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport that has been modified to include a VIP interior to support long-range government transport needs.
Features of the cabin included accommodation areas, secure communications, a meeting room, a working area and airline-style seating, Defence said in October 2016.
The aircraft is one of two ex-Qantas Airbus A330-200s being converted to KC-30A tanker configuration by Airbus Defence and Space at Getafe, Spain.