The US Navy announced on 6 October its intention to purchase a Gulfstream G550 modified to carry the conformal airborne early warning system (CAEW).
A request for proposals for a range support aircraft (RSA) was initially released in March 2013, resulting in the non-competitive selection of Gulfstream because “no other type of supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements,” the document reads. The navy will take delivery no later than the end of fiscal year 2017.
Gulfstream will be prime contractor for the USN requirement, with Israel Aerospace Industries subsidiary Elta Systems to supply the CAEW equipment. The service will become the system's fourth customer, following orders from the Israel air force, Republic of Singapore Air Force and the Italian air force.
An RSA is needed to support range operations of the Naval Test Wing Pacific and Air and Test and Evaluation Squadron VX-30 at Point Mugu, California. VX-30 flies the Lockheed S-3 Viking, P-3 Orion and C-130. The squadron’s aircraft are aging and need to be replaced because of “significant service life and sustainment challenges,” the navy says. The service is anticipating a 25-year service life for the RSA aircraft.
“The Gulfstream G550 CAEW aircraft is the only known aircraft that will satisfy the NAWC-WD Sea Range Support requirements without significant engineering, development, modification, test, and certification effort,” the navy says. “No other known commercial derivative aircraft that possesses these necessary type certificates is capable of meeting the mission requirements, and therefore the G550 CAEW is the only aircraft that can meet the Government's requirements on a timely basis.”
The G550 has both US Federal Aviation Administration type certification and supplemental type certificates to meet the Defense Department’s airworthiness requirements and is designed to host as many as three telemetry antennas for L, S and C band radio signals. The antennas would have to be mounted to the side of the fuselage and contained within a fairing.
Navy officials sought an aircraft with a minimum range of 4,500nm (8,334km) capable of cruising at low altitudes that could be equipped with an airborne telemetry system and command destruct and flight termination system, a range surveillance and range clearance radar and internal and external communications systems. The G550 CAEW has a range of 6,750nm (12,501km).