The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is to receive four Gulfstream G550s outfitted for signals intelligence (Sigint) gathering in an AUD2.46 billion ($1.75 billion) deal. Likely to be based on the special electronics mission aircraft airframe configuration that is in service with the Israel Defence Forces as the Shavit, Australia’s aircraft will be known as the MC-55A Peregrine in RAAF service.
The announcement was made jointly on March 18 by Australia’s Minister for Defence, Christopher Pyne, and Minister for Defence Industry, Senator Linda Reynolds. Minister Pyne commented, "The Peregrine is a new airborne electronic warfare capability that will be integrated into Defence's joint warfighting networks, providing a critical link between platforms, including the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, E-7A Wedgetail, EA-18G Growler, Navy’s surface combatants and amphibious assault ships, and ground assets to support the warfighter.”
He went on to state that the Peregrine would operate from the "super base" at RAAF Edinburgh in South Australia, where the RAAF has “a broader intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance precinct being developed.” Edinburgh is home to the RAAF’s Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group and the P-8A Poseidon fleet, and will also host the unmanned Northrop Grumman Tritons and armed General Atomics Reapers that are on order. The Gulfstreams will supplant a Sigint capability hitherto provided by the Lockheed AP-3C Orion.
"This capability and the people who operate it will bring Air Force a step closer to becoming a fully networked fifth-generation force and further exploit the joint combat multiplier effects on exercises and operations," said Pyne. Minister Reynolds added, “About AUD425 million will be spent with Australian companies during the acquisition phase of the project, including AUD257 million to be invested in new facilities at RAAF Base Edinburgh.”
The Gulfstreams are being procured under a Foreign Military Sales contract, with the U.S. Air Force’s Big Safari program office (645th Aeronautical Systems Group) as the contracting agency. Modification work will be performed by L3 at Greenville, Texas. The aircraft fulfill Australia’s Project Air 555 requirement, which was formally revealed in the 2016 Defence White Paper as part of a wider requirement to improve electronic support capabilities across all domains. The U.S. State Department approved the sale of up to five Gulfstreams in June 2017.