Gulfstream has broken its four-year silence on the existence of a new aircraft development programme dubbed "P42", with a senior executive saying the company is "real close" to unveiling the mysterious project.

"I think we're getting real close," Gulfstream vice-president of communications Steve Cass says. "We'll be talking, hopefully, in the not too distant future."

Cass was speaking in an interview at the Latin American Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition in São Paulo, Brazil.

With the business aviation industry's premier event approaching – October’s NBAA convention – Cass was asked if P42 could be announced later this year: "Maybe," he says.

Cass's comments are the most direct remarks from a Gulfstream executive on the P42 project since a Flightglobal report disclosed its existence in 2010.

Just three months ago, Gulfstream executives were still repeating an oblique and non-committal statement when asked directly about the P42 project.

Gulfstream president Larry Flynn said in an interview at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in May that he knows "what we're going to do next, but we haven't announced it".

The company's public position has evolved in the last three months, however. "I can't make a full commitment yet, but I don't think we're too far away," Cass adds.

Cass says that Gulfstream takes a conservative approach to product announcements, lifting the veil only after the company is sure the aircraft can do "exactly" what is promised – and that the market is ready for it.

Gulfstream also faces new competitive pressures in the middle of its product portfolio. Dassault unveiled the Falcon 5X at NBAA a year ago – an aircraft aimed squarely at the G450’s market segment.

The P42 is widely expected to be launched initially as a replacement for the G450 business jet, which was certificated a decade ago. The family may include two other variants to eventually replace the G550 and smaller G350.

Although Gulfstream has not publicly reported details of the programme, several references in internal projects mentioned the “P42”, and the reference “GVII-2” has appeared in a range of public documents, including the LinkedIn accounts of suppliers and even EASA's 2012 annual report.