USN’s New Range Aircraft: G550 CAEW
June 28/17: A possible $1.3 billion deal has also been cleared by the US State Department that could see up to five Gulfstream G550 aircraft with Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Electronic Warfare (AISREW) mission systems delivered to Australia. The sale will support ongoing efforts by Australia to modernize its Electronic Warfare capability and increases interoperability between the US Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). L-3 Technologies will act as lead contractor on the sale.
The US Navy is replacing its 2 NP-3D “Billboard” range monitoring aircraft with a new plane, which will use the same core design as the modern AWACS aircraft bought by Israel, Italy, and Singapore: “a Gulfstream G550 long-range business jet with the Conformal Airborne Early Warning (CAEW) structural modifications.”
The aircraft needs to be ready by the end of September 2017. So, why the G550 CAEW?
“The aircraft shall be procured pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1) and FAR 6.302-1, “Only One Responsible Source and No Other Type of Supplies or Services will Satisfy Agency Requirements.” 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. This commercial derivative aircraft has both an FAA Type Certificate and the necessary Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs) to meet Government airworthiness requirements. 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 one area that isn’t clear is the electronics. Some reports note IAI Elta as the sub-contractor, but that doesn’t appear in official announcements or new releases. The text of this FBO.gov announcement, and the fact that they’re buying from Gulfstream rather than Elbit or IAI, suggest that may only be buying the certified airframe. That would mean that they’d need to integrate their own radars, datalinks, etc. for over the horizon monitoring and missile testing. The full AWACS equipment set would certainly work, but it isn’t cheap, and may be more than the mission needs.
Fortunately, the Gulfstream 550 CAEW comes with a lot of built-in space and power for any installations the US Navy wants performed. Sources: FBO.gov Solicitation Number N00019-14-P1-PMA-207-0804 | Defense Update, “Gulfstream jets with Israeli radar to replace US Navy’s P-3 orion in test-range surveillance” | Flight International, “US Navy to order Gulfstream jet for test-range surveillance”.
May 12/16: The USAF has requested $165.7 million in the FY 2017 defense budget to convert the EC-37B (military designation for the G550) into an electronic attack platform. If selected, the C-37B will eventually replace the EC-130H currently used. According to the service, the selection of the C-37B was made uncompetitively as the aircraft did not require any further certification work.
January 8/16: Australia’s DoD has confirmed that they have purchased two Gulfstream G550 aircraft modified for surveillance and electronic warfare. Confirmation comes after the US DoD announced a foreign military sales contract on December 28. The two corporate aircraft will be fitted with specialized modifications by L-3 Communications Mission Integration in a deal worth $93.6 million.
January 4/16: Australia is to procure and operate the Gulfstream G550 as a special missions aircraft. A US Department of Defense foreign sales contract has awarded L-3 $93 million to provide special missions modifications to the aircraft to be completed by November 30 2017. While the Australian government has yet to confirm its intention to operate special missions aircraft, it is believed that it will be announced in a forthcoming Defence Department white paper.