Alenia Aermacchi and ATK will complete the first phase of testing for an armed, multi-mission version of the C-27J battlefield airlifter by the end of February.
"The MC-27J version is not just a gunship", according to an Alenia Aermacchi source, "but an adaptable, agile and affordable platform solution to be equipped with a sensor, communication and weapon suite able to execute a wide range of customer-driven missions."
Unveiled as a product at the Farnborough air show in July 2012, the MC-27J is being developed and marketed by an Alenia and ATK team, with the companies acting as platform system integrator and modular mission and weapon system supplier, respectively.
"We are introducing roll-on and secure pallets, quick connect interface with avionics and aircraft systems, and working on an external antenna and sensor configuration to reduce operational limitations for transport missions," Alenia Aermacchi says.
The companies are offering a mission suite based on a roll-on/roll-off module, with two mission control operator stations, a cockpit display and command units capable of accomplishing a wide range of missions. The aircraft also boasts two electro-optical/infrared sensor (EO/IR) turrets for surveillance and weapon targeting, a new synthetic aperture radar, fire control system, secure radios and a datalink.
The armed configuration is based on a pallet-mounted ATK GAU-23 Bushmaster 30mm automatic cannon, also selected for the US Air Force's Lockheed Martin MC-130W Combat Spear special mission/gunship.
Weighing less than 900kg (1,980lb), with 500 rounds of ammunition, the weapon is fitted at the rear left door with the gun barrel protruding.
Flight International understands the gun has a slant range of 2.2nm (4km) from a 5,000ft (1,520m) altitude, and will be fired in unpressured conditions to enhance accuracy. The MC-27J also can carry precision-guided munitions, including those released from launchers incorporated with the aircraft's rear ramp.
An Alenia Aermacchi source says the first firing test phase will be performed at a US range, using a company-owned C-27J with a fixed gun with manual adjustment and cameras installed. The process will include five or six flights involving single and multiple rounds being fired, and will be completed during February.
The companies have, meanwhile, already started a second phase of work with an ATK-provided GAU-23 gun trainable mount, fire control software, installed EO/IR turrets and a mission system. These activities are scheduled to be completed, with additional testing, before the end of 2013.
Alenia Aermacchi says the C-27J has so far been ordered by 10 customers, with the latest being Australia and an undisclosed nation from central Africa. The company has so far delivered 54 of the 91 aircraft ordered, with more than 60,000 flight hours amassed and the type delivering an average availability rate of over 70%.