Launched MC-27J Praetorian program for Special Operations support

The Defence and Budget Committees of the House and Senate have expressed a favorable opinion on the multi-year program of modernization and renewal A/R n. SMD 05/2021, concerning the development of the MC-27J Praetorian system, a special version of the C-27J aircraft, intended to support Special Operations.

The C-27J aircraft was developed as a result of an industrial collaboration between Alenia Aerospazio (now Leonardo S.p.A.) and Lockheed Martin, aimed at creating a new generation medium/light tactical transport aircraft mainly intended for airlift operations in theater, on short and/or semi-prepared runways, close to the Zone of Operations (Last Mile Concept).

The C-27J fleet will soon undergo a major avionics upgrade both to resolve numerous obsolescences linked to technological progress and to extend the operational life of the aircraft.

Another effect of the upgrade will be to adapt the C-27J fleet to the current operational standards and to the new safety regulations of the European and US airspaces guaranteeing interoperability (with continuously evolving assets) and the effectiveness of support to ground components with specific regard to “Special Operations”.

With particular reference to the latter, on the basis of the guidelines of the Inter-Forces Command for Special Forces Operations (COFS), an Operational Requirement (O.E.) was drawn up. ) “Fixed-wing aircraft to support Special Operations” (document with Confidential classification), which foresees the realization of a special version of the C-27J called Praetorian, in order to extend the operational capabilities of the aircraft in the areas of Tactical Transport (TT+), Tactical Control (CTACON), Communication (COMM), Intelligence & Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR).

With reference to the aims of the programme, the Defence Staff points out that it lies in the strengthening of the capabilities expressed in the Airborne Command and Control and Battle Management sectors of the Air Force through the development in three phases of a multi-role fixed-wing aircraft in Special Air Operations (SAO) configuration, which guarantees both air transport/strategic mobility capacity and the development of additional enabling functions in the C4ISTAR, COMINT, kinetic engagement and protection sectors, to be based at Pisa air base for synergies with transport assets operating there. This is in progressive realization of the fleet foreseen by the General Inter-Forces Planning, as necessary to guarantee an adequate capacity of risk deployment in operational theaters in support of Special Operations.

The related multi-year program refers to the acquisition of the following services

  • an initial system (aircraft + palletized mission system) in prototype configuration (Inital Operational Capability – IOC), which will be subsequently implemented to express the maximum operational capability provided for by the approved O.E. and which will lead to the realization of the MC-27J Praetorian assets and at least 4 mission systems developed on the basis of ATOS – Airborne Tactical Observation Surveillance System, which will be progressively brought to full FOC (Full Operational Capability) capability;
  • increase of Logistic Support for the maintenance of efficiency and operability of the modified aircraft (hardware and software on board, airframe, engines, auxiliary power unit) and of the Mission System (role equipment), according to the schemes reported in the Technical Requirement developed in accordance with the E.O;
  • acquisition of spare parts and consumables for the performance of non-programmable extraordinary maintenance activities up to the 3rd technical level;
  • resolution of obsolescence;
  • infrastructural and info-structural upgrading (hangars, maintenance rooms, offices, parking stands);
  • personnel training requirements.

The program is scheduled to start in 2021 and will be completed in 2030.

The total projected burden for the completion of the program is estimated at 99.00M€ (economic conditions 2020) and will be developed in 3 self-consistent Phases.

Expenditure for the first two phases (€10.00 and €70.00 million, respectively) will be charged to the chapters of the investment sector of the Ordinary Budget of the Ministry of Defence within the framework of resources available under current legislation (chapter 7120-02).

Phase 3 will be contracted out subject to the identification of the necessary resources to be drawn from separate financial instruments that may be set up in the future, amounting to 19.00 million euros.

The 2021-2023 Multi-Year Planning Document provides for the allocation of €80 million to cover Phases 1 and 2 from 2021 to 2023, while Phase 3 will run from 2024 to 2030.

Photo Leonardo S.p.A.

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