Canberra will obtain four modified Gulfstream G550 business jets that will be modified for the electronic warfare (EW) mission in the USA.
The aircraft will be designated the MC-55A Peregrine, says a joint statement from Australia’s defence minister and the country’s minister for defence industry. The deal is worth A$2.46 billion ($1.7 billion).
"The Peregrine is a new airborne electronic warfare capability that will be integrated into Defence's joint warfighting networks, providing a critical link between platforms, including the [Lockheed Martin] F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, [Boeing] E-7A Wedgetail, EA-18G Growler, Navy’s surface combatants and amphibious assault ships and ground assets to support the warfighter,” says defence minister Christopher Pyne.
The aircraft will be based at RAAF Edinburgh in South Australia alongside the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) P-8A Poseidons, and its incoming fleet of Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton UAVs. In addition, the RAAF’s future contingent of MQ-9 Reapers will operate from the base.
In June 2017, the US State Department cleared a potential Australian acquisition for up to five G550’s equipped for the ISR missions. At that time, the deal was for five aircraft at a cost of $1.3 billion.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) named L3 Technologies as the prime contractor for the Foreign Military Sales deal.
Airframe modifications were listed to accommodate mission systems and secure communications equipment. The work will be conducted at L3's Greenville site in Texas. A self-protection suite will also be installed, with other programme elements to include ground-based data processing systems, plus spare parts and crew training services.
At the time of the DSCA announcement, Australia's acquisition was believed to include a lead pair of G550s that had already been ordered for conversion by L3 in an electronic and signals intelligence-gathering configuration.
In a 2017 interview with FlightGlobal, Air Marshal Leo Davies, chief of the RAAF, had this to say about the G550 acquisition: “In the 2016 defence White Paper, we found there was an electronic warfare co-ordination role that was not being filled. The G550 will serve as the conductor of the orchestra.”
“Our air warfare centre is looking at a maritime environment, in which case the Growler will support vessels like the future frigate and the air warfare destroyer, providing the navy with an electronic option at distance. The bit we want to understand regarding [the] G550, Wedgetail and Growler is what part of that EW mission do we apportion to each. We don’t want to have a Wedgetail that should be doing airborne control in a congested environment, also having to send packets of ones and zeros to the F-35 or the air warfare destroyer. This becomes the role of the G550.”