Alenia Aermacchi has flown its MC-27J multi-mission tactical transport in full mission specification for the first time. On April 25 the aircraft took to the skies at the company’s Turin-Caselle flight-test center in Italy with defensive aids fitted and an L-3 Wescam MX-15Di electro-optical turret under the port side of the nose. The company demonstrator is outfitted with the hardware necessary to accommodate palletized mission packages, and has Link 16 datalink software installed. The aircraft’s communications system is primed for the adoption of an advanced cryptographic system from Selex ES that could be used in a command post role.
Alenia Aermacchi launched the MC-27J in partnership with ATK in July 2012, and the demonstrator has been exhibited at several shows. Building on the proven tactical airlift capabilities of the regular C-27J, the MC-27J Praetorian concept retains the aircraft’s transport capability, but can be rapidly converted for various special missions, including command and control, search-and-rescue, ISR, Sigint (signals intelligence) and precision attack.
ATK is responsible for developing the roll-on/roll-off mission packages. Integrated operator consoles and the mission system itself are mounted on pallets, and the rapidity with which an MC-27J can be converted from basic transport configuration was demonstrated in the spring last year at Eglin AFB, Florida. During those trials a trainable ATK GAU-23 30-mm cannon was fitted in a side-firing PaWS (palletized weapons system) configuration. In May a full GAU-23 installation, which includes a modified side door, will be fitted to the MC-27J demonstrator. Firing trials of the 200-rounds-per-minute weapon are scheduled to get under way in June.
Ultimately it is expected that precision-guided glide bombs or missiles, such as the MBDA Viper-E, Raytheon Griffin-B or ATK Hatchet, will be added to the Praetorian’s armory. They could be carried underwing or launched from tubes in the cargo hold.
So far Italy has signed up for the MC-27J, and it is modifying six of its current C-27Js for use with the Comando Operativo Forze Speciali. An initial three will be outfitted in full MC-27J configuration, and the remaining three will have the preparations necessary to accept palletized mission systems. Italy already operates at least one C-27J in the EC-27 JEDI (jamming and electronic defense instrumentation) configuration, with a special-mission package for disrupting communications and jamming IED detonation signals.
As well as looking for new customers, Alenia Aermacchi and ATK are also promoting the MC-27J to existing C-27 users. Interest in the upgrade has been reported from Australia, which is in the process of receiving 10 transport aircraft. U.S. Special Operations Command is in the process of receiving seven C-27Js originally bought for the Air Force’s tactical transport mission, and might also have an interest in adding an armed/ISR capability.