The first fully configured Alenia Aermacchi MC-27J Spartan gunship has made its maiden flight from the company's Turin Test Flight Centre, it was announced on 25 April.
The aircraft was flown with a chin-mounted L-3 Wescam MX-15HD electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) sensor turret, and with Link-16 datalink software and hardware provisions to prepare the aircraft for installation of the ATK palletised mission system. Provisions for an upgraded Selex ES communication system have also been built into the aircraft.
According to Alenia, installation of both the ATK developed modular/palletised roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) mission and weapon system and a modified side door for the GAU-23 30 mm cannon installation will be completed in May. This will be followed in June by the completion of the current round of flight trials, which has included firing the cannon.
Aside from the gun, Alenia is also looking to integrate precision-guided munitions such as the MBDA US Viper Strike and Raytheon Griffon, as well as other systems being developed by ATK. These will be carried on underwing hardpoints or internally located launch tubes.
Launched at the Farnborough Airshow in 2012, the MC-27J is a special mission variant of the C-27J tactical transport aircraft that will enable operators to quickly change the aircraft's set-up from gunship and command and control to basic transport for multiple missions.
Italy was signed up as the launch customer at the Dubai Airshow in November 2013, with an initial three C-27J Spartan transport aircraft to be modified to accept the palletised gunship kits by the end of 2016. A further three C-27Js will be converted and delivered back to the Italian Air Force in the same time frame.
Separately, the seven C-27J transport aircraft that the US Air Force is to hand over to the US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) might also be configured to the MC-27J standard. Although no programme of record for this currently exists, Alenia has said it has briefed AFSOC on the capabilities of the MC-27J.
Previously, Alenia has identified a possible market beyond Italy for 50 aircraft that encompasses current and potential C-27 users in the Middle East, South America, and the Far East.