The government has announced it will invest $220 million in major infrastructure upgrades at RAAF Base Edinburgh that will help accommodate its new MC-55A Peregrine.
The enhancements will include hangar, maintenance facilities, and operational accommodation, and will also generate 200 construction jobs.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the aircraft would improve Australia’s “situational awareness” during conflict and peacetime.
“Today’s announcement builds on this government’s $2.5 billion investment in South Australia on Defence facilities and infrastructure over the coming decade, including at Edinburgh Defence Precinct, Woomera Prohibited Area, Keswick Barracks, and the Cultana Training Area,” she said.
Last year, Australian Aviation reported how the country would acquire four modified Gulfstream G550 business jets, to be designated MC-55A Peregrine, for $2.46 billion.
Ministers said the aircraft would enable the Australian Defence Force to actively strengthen electronic warfare support to naval, air and land forces for operations in complex electromagnetic environments.
The four jets are to be based at RAAF Edinburgh near Adelaide alongside P-8A Poseidon, MQ-4C Triton and MQ-9 Predator/Reaper intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems.
The requirement for the aircraft was first realised under the former Project DEF 555, which has since been split into discrete LAND, SEA and AIR projects.
The requirement was outlined in the 2016 Defence White Paper, which said, “The government will strengthen electronic warfare support to naval, air and land forces for operations in hostile electromagnetic environments including through the introduction of new long-range electronic warfare support aircraft based on a long-range commercial business jet in the early 2020s.”
Those who attended the March 2016 RAAF Airpower Conference will recall then defence minister Marise Payne highlighting the G550s in her keynote speech and even using the MC-55 designation for the first time, reportedly much to the consternation of senior Defence officials, although any record of that reference does not appear in the official transcript of her speech.
In June 2017, a US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announcement revealed the US State Department had approved the sale of the aircraft and their systems. The DSCA notification said Australia had “requested the possible sale of up to five Gulfstream G550 aircraft modified to integrate Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Electronic Warfare (AISREW) mission systems.”
The MC-55A program has been managed through the US Air Force’s 645th Aeronautical Systems Group (ASG), otherwise known as “Big Safari”, an organisation that specialises in the acquisition, modification, and support of special purpose aircraft.
“The proposed sale supports and complements the ongoing efforts of Australia to modernise its electronic warfare capability, and increases interoperability between the US Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force,” the DSCA stated.
The Peregrine name continues the RAAF’s recent pattern of naming ISR platforms after birds of prey, with Projects Nankeen and Aquila both being project names for systems operated in Afghanistan.
The G550s will be modified by L3 at the company’s Greenville, Texas, facility.