Multi-Mission Multi-Sensor Airborne Platform for the Italian Air Force

The multi-year program of modernization and renewal of A/R n. SMD 37/2021 was presented in Parliament to the competent Defence Committees of the House and Senate for the acquisition of the relevant opinion. It is configured as the planned second tranche of the already started and approved program of A/R n. SMD 03/2020 (“Multi-Mission, Multi-Sensor Airborne Platform”).

This program is aimed at the progressive implementation of structural modifications and integration of the CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) mission system on Gulfstream G-550 aircraft purchased in “green” version aimed at achieving Full Mission Capability, in the strategic segments of characterization, surveillance and monitoring of the tactical-operational situation, strategic and operational level decision support, multi-domain Command and Control (C2) and electronic protection.

As it is well known, Italy, in the framework of an intergovernmental agreement for military cooperation and collaboration signed in 2003 with Israel, in exchange for the supply of 30 Leonardo M-346 advanced training aircrafts to the Israeli Air Force, has obtained from the Israeli counterpart a supply of equal value, consisting of two G-550 CAEW aircrafts and an OPSAT 3000 observation and control satellite.

For the Italian Defence it was a real operational leap because it came into possession of very advanced systems that filled the heavy gaps existing in the field of air defence and intelligence.

The only drawback is represented by the limited number of aircraft that are used to reinforce air defense during major events or in support of both national and international operations and exercises.

As far as the OPSAT 3000 satellite is concerned, it integrates the very sophisticated Cosmo SkyMed constellation made up of satellites equipped with a synthetic aperture radar sensor, and therefore provides very high resolution satellite images, being able to operate during the day, while the Skymed Cosmos provide images 24 hours a day and with very rapid flows.

Returning to the CAEW system, the G-550 aircraft has proved to be exceptionally versatile for this purpose due to both high performance (range, tangency altitude, speed, etc.) and particularly advantageous operating costs.


To this end, the Defence Staff, in the context of the new Defence Strategic Concept, foresees the progressive implementation of the operational changes required to bring the fleet of Gulfstream G-550 “Green base JAMMS” aircraft to full operational standard through the installation of special multi-sensor, multi-mission suites.

With a view to this progressive, balanced and sustainable development of the various enabling capabilities of the instrument, the first tranche of the program, which has already been fulfilled for an amount of around 1.2 billion euros, subordinated the start-up of subsequent completion phases to the identification of the necessary financial resources.

Regarding the first tranche already approved, reference should be made to https://aresdifesa.it/il-programma-per-velivoli-multi-missione-e-multi-sensore/.

A description of the two Full Mission Capable aircraft can be found at https://aresdifesa.it/via-libera-statunitense-alla-vendita-di-due-gulfstream-g550-aisrew-allitalia/.

The 2nd tranche, which is the subject of the program submitted to parliamentary approval, is aimed at the operational transformation of 4 of the 6 G-550 aircraft mentioned in the 1st tranche, from the so-called “Green” version based on JAMMS to the Full Mission Capable (FMC)2 version, as well as guaranteeing post-delivery Integrated Logistic Support (SLI) services and the necessary logistical and infrastructural preparations.

Subsequently, these four platforms will be further modified and equipped with the most advanced sensors for the characterization of the operational scenario, pertaining to multiple information activities, in order to achieve maximum mission flexibility and operate autonomously or in real-time support to specific operations (land, naval, air and multi-agency competition).

The Multi-Int capability will allow the transmission of data from one sensor to another without the need for operator intervention.

Completion of the project will occur through the activation of tranches subsequent to this 2nd, bringing the capability to the optimal level of expression of a fleet of eight aircraft, in addition to the two CAEW aircraft already on line and operational since 2016/17.

This choice conforms to the general development lines already adopted by the Defence in the recent past aimed at building the capabilities it intends to equip with a progressive approach, foreseeing from the beginning the possibility of rationalizing the systems according to the lessons identified in the operational use and the adoption of industrial technological progress, operating retrofits on the fleets already deployed, thus extending their life cycle, and maximizing the return on investments made.

The program, scheduled to be contracted in 2021, will ensure, in line with the expected operating life of the systems, their effective operation until at least 2040.

The industrial sectors principally concerned are those of the Defence industry and, in particular, those linked to the development of very high technology sensors.

Given the specificity and uniqueness of some central components of the system (sensors and mission suites), these will have to be acquired directly through procedures with allied countries and/or countries of strategic interest (via FMS in the case of the Government of the United States of America, Gov-to-Gov in the case of Israel) while, vice versa, services related to aircraft and related equipment (comms & relays and data analysis systems) can be procured by involving the national industry and maximizing the appropriate synergies with what is already in operational service.

In this sense we will operate contemplating, in the most extensive way possible, the concept of industrial return, which will be declined according to the guidelines established for the 1st tranche of the program referred to in Decree no. SMD 3/2020, providing:

-the stipulation of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between the foreign companies involved (e.g.: ELTA System Ltd and L3 Harris) and the national reference industries in the field of aeronautics and avionics systems, aimed at identifying and implementing specific technology transfer projects, commercial contracts and collaboration opportunities, not only restricted to the program in question;

-specific contractual articles relating to industrial returns within the individual contracts that will be stipulated between the Defence Administration and the above-mentioned international companies;

-Government-to-Government (G2G) type agreements with the Israeli Government, to activate acquisition procedures of equal value with national industries operating in the Defence sector, or FMS type agreements with the US Government (which allow direct collaboration agreements with the US companies involved, in order to define industrial/technological returns through dedicated “Industrial Return Agreements”).

Operating in the same vein as the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2003 between Rome and Tel Aviv, in view of the positive results achieved with this approach, it will be possible to negotiate a G2G agreement with the Israeli government to broaden the involvement of national defense industries, not necessarily and within the aeronautical sector, in further procurement activities by the Israeli MoD to offset the value of the new national commitment.

In the context of the contract already signed for the acquisition of the G-550 “Green base JAMMS” platforms and related plant and system arrangements (so-called “Group A” modifications), it should be noted, by way of example, that the prime contractor designated “L3 HARRIS” has finalized, with the company Leonardo, a specific Industrial Return Cooperation Agreement.

This industrial agreement, whose governance includes the active participation of the General Secretariat of Defence – in which the following companies are required to participate
This industrial agreement, whose governance includes the active participation of the Defence General Secretariat – which has been delegated coordination and control powers – provides for the definition of specific plans for the industrial involvement of national companies in the Aerospace and Defence sector in the program. Therefore, the plans deriving from the aforementioned Industrial Agreement will guarantee a significant financial return on the investment.

The estimated cost of the second tranche of the program is approximately 925 million euros (economic conditions 2021).

Expenditure will be charged to various chapters of the ordinary Ministry of Defence investment budget within the scope of resources available under current legislation, which may be associated with other financial sources/chapters that may be useful or subsequently established over the long service life of the capability.

Subsequent tranches, worth a total of around 900 million euros, aimed at completing the operational conversion of the remaining two “Green” aircraft based on JAMMS and the MCO/SLI (Maintenance of Operational Conditions, Integrated Logistic Support) of the entire fleet, will be contracted out subject to identification of the necessary resources, to be drawn from separate financial instruments that may be set up in the future.

The programme is included in the Defence Planning Document (DPP) for the three-year period 2021-2023 among those whose continuation will bring effective capacity building to the Defence.

According to the DPP: “The program is entirely financed from the budget of the Ministry of Defence by means of resources from “demand” chapters for a total of 925 M€ distributed over 12 years”.

Within the framework of DPP 21-23, 55 million euros are allocated for the time period covered.

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