US approves sale of G550 special mission equipment to Italy

The US State Department announced on December 15 that it has approved the possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of special mission equipment to Italy for integration on two new Gulfstream G550 aircraft.

Approval of the potential deal, worth an estimated US$500m, was announced in a media release by the State Department’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), after it had notified the US Congress. The deal includes two Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Electronic Warfare (AIRSEW) mission systems, which will be integrated onto a pair of Italian Ministry of Defence (MoD)-provided G550 business jets. The AIRSEW system comprises four Multifunctional Information Distribution Systems – Joint Tactical Radio Systems (MIDS JTRS); three Embedded/GPS/INS (EGI) airborne security devices; and four RIO Communications Intelligence Systems.

E-550A (G550 CAEW) [Italian Air Force]
The Italian Air Force is procuring two new Gulfstream G550 business jets that will come equipped with an L3Harris sensor suite that is optimised for Airborne Intelligence, Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Electronic Warfare (AIRSEW) missions. Pictured is one of the air arm's G550 Conformal Airborne Early Warning (CAEW) aircraft, which the new AIRSEW platform will look similar to. Italian Air Force

The deal also includes missile warning systems, Osprey 50 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, MX-20HD electro-optical and infrared systems, Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) kits and AN/ALE-47 Countermeasure Dispenser Sets (CMDS). AIRSEW intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and secure communications equipment are also included, along with ground systems for data processing and crew training. US government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support and flight test/certification services will also be provided as part of the possible FMS.

In the media release, the DSCA said: “The proposed sale supports and complements the ongoing efforts of Italy to modernise its airborne [ISR] and electronic warfare capability and increases interoperability between the US Air Force and the Italian Air Force. Italy will have no difficulty absorbing these articles into its armed forces.”

L3Harris, operating from Greenville, Texas, will be the principle contractor for this possible FMS. No offset agreements have been proposed in connection with this potential sale.

In October 2020, the Italian MoD published the Documento Programmatico Pluriennale 2020-2022 – its latest multi-year planning document for 2020-2022, which outlined a major boost for its defence budget. In this document, the MoD announced its intention to acquire a G550-based Command, Control, Communications, Computer Information/Intelligence, Surveillance and TARgeting (C4ISTAR) platform. For the acquisition, Italy outlined a budget of EUR€1.23bn (US$1.45bn), with funding beginning in fiscal year 2021.

The Italian Air Force already operates two Gulfstream G550s in a special mission role. Locally designated the E-550A, the Conformal Airborne Early Warning (CAEW) platform entered operational service with the air arm in 2018. The aircraft were acquired from Israel Aerospace Industries in 2012 after Israel purchased 30 Leonardo M-346 advanced jet trainers from Italy.