The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is spending more than $90 million to convert luxury corporate jets into state-of-the-art spy planes. GRILLED has learnt that the high-tech surveillance aircraft are due to come into service at the end of 2017. A statement posted on the US Defense Department website confirms the project.
“L-3 Communications Mission Integration, Greenville, Texas, has been awarded a $93,632,287 firm-fixed price undefinitized contract action task order (1648) for Australia Government G550 aircraft procurement and maintenance. Work will be performed at Greenville, Texas, and is expected to be complete by Nov. 30, 2017. This contract is 100-percent foreign military sales to Australia. The 645th Aeronautical Systems Group, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity. (FA8620-11-G-4025)” the statement read ::
“Turning this aircraft from a business jet into something that can potentially be used for surveillance and electronic information gathering and I suspect that’s the major intent behind this,” he said.
The G550 is a luxury corporate jet boasting the ability to fly more than 12 hours nonstop, and over 12,000 kilometres. It’s powered by two Rolls Royce engines, can carry up to 18 passengers and operates out of short-field, high-altitude airports, meaning it could spy on remote and difficult locations such as Afghanistan.
Australia’s current P3 maritime surveillance aircraft are due to retire in 2018, and will be eventually be replaced by the P8 Poseidon and Triton.
“The Gulfstream is smaller, faster, takes fewer crew so it’s cheaper to operate,” Mr Jennings said.
Already several militaries across the globe are using G550s for intelligence gathering but full details of Australia’s contract are not expected to be known until the release of this year’s long-awaited defence white paper. The Australian Defence department is yet to respond to questions about the military contract.
UPDATE! ADF Confirms Spy-plane Project
The ADF has confirmed a $133 million project to convert two luxury corporate jets into state-of-the-art spy planes for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Shortly after Christmas, the United States entered into a “Foreign Military Sales arrangement” with Australia to modify two Gulfstream G550 business jets, into high-tech surveillance aircraft.
In a statement the ADF said: “The aircraft will be modified to provide an airborne intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic warfare capability to support ADF operations. Further details on the capability will be provided in the Integrated Investment Program due for release this year with the Defence White Paper.”
The new modified aircraft are due to come into service at the end of next year.
A brief statement posted on the US Defense Department website initially confirmed the project shortly after Christmas.
“L-3 Communications Mission Integration, Greenville, Texas, has been awarded a $US93,632,287 firm-fixed price undefinitised contract action task order (1648) for Australia Government G550 aircraft procurement and maintenance,” it said.
“Work will be performed at Greenville, Texas, and is expected to be complete by Nov. 30, 2017. This contract is 100-per cent foreign military sales to Australia.”
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