An MC-27J at the 2013 Dubai Air Show on Nov. 18. (Colin Kelly/Staff)
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DUBAI — The Italian Air Force signed an agreement Monday with Alenia Aermacchi to convert up to six C-27J Spartan cargo planes into a multimission gunship configuration called the MC-27J Pretorian.
Top officials from the Alenia and Italian military signed the pact at the Dubai Air Show.
Alenia has partnered with US-based ATK to conduct the gunship modifications, which include sensors, communications and cannon.
Alenia will use one of its C-27Js as a prototype that will receive advanced communication and sensor equipment, company officials said. The Air Force then plans to deploy the aircraft to Afghanistan for trials.
Using the lessons gleaned from the deployment, a finalized configuration for the aircraft will be determined.
Alenia will then convert three Air Force C-27Js into the gunship configuration by 2016. An additional three aircraft will also be modified to accept the gunship equipment.
The price tag of the upgrade has not yet been determined, according to Alenia officials.
“This capacity … represents the future to give the capacity to our troops on the ground, our special forces on the ground in terms of situational awareness, in terms of security of our people on the ground,” Lt. Gen. Pasquale Preziosa, Italian Air Force chief of staff, said at a briefing.
The modifications will be conducted at an Alenia facility in Italy. Once complete, half of the Air Force’s 12-aircraft C-27J fleet will fashion the Pretorian upgrade.
What About the US C-27Js?
Following the US Air Force’s decision to stop flying its 21 C-27Js, seven have been transferred to the US Army’s Special Operations Command.
“We are discussing with them and our partners just to show them … the capabilities of this system because we believe that they can be interested in the future,” said Alenia CEO Giuseppe Giordo.
The other 14 aircraft remain in limbo and will likely end up in the US Coast Guard and Forest Service.