Two Gulfstream G550 executive aircraft are to be converted on behalf of the Australian Government for operation by the Royal Australian Air Force in the electronic warfare (EW) and airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) roles. A $93.63 million Foreign Military Sales contract was awarded to L-3 Communications Mission Integration of Greenville, Texas, on December 28 for procurement of the aircraft and provision of maintenance services.
Australia had previously given no indication that it intended to acquire these aircraft and the brief announcement of the contract award by the US Department of Defence made no mention of their planned role. However, the award was made through the US Air Force’s 645th Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, otherwise known as the Big Safari’ programme office. The 645th AESG is specifically tasked with modification and sustainment of special mission aircraft. Additionally, L-3 Mission Integration also specialises in this work, thus both of these clues gave away the planned use of the aircraft.
Australian Government officials have since acknowledged that they are indeed to be EW/ISR aircraft, but have not provided an further information. However, it was confirmed that additional details will be released when the next Defence White Paper is published later this year. Alan Warnes