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Italy To Upgrade Its C-27J Spartan Tactical Airlifters

An Italian Air Force C-27J at Pisa airport. (Image credit: The Aviationist/Giovanni Maduli)

The aircraft will receive an extensive upgrade to the avionic suite, onboard systems and self-protection suite.

Leonardo and Armaereo, the Italian Defence Ministry’s Air Force Armament and Airworthiness Directorate, have signed a contract to begin the development activities for the upgrade of the Italian Air Force’s C-27J Spartan fleet. The Spartan has been in service in Italy since 2006, with 12 aircraft based at Pisa-San Giusto airport which last year reached the milestone of 50,000 flight hours.

The contract includes the development, integration, qualification and certification of a new avionics configuration for the C-27J, the upgrade of a number of general systems on the aircraft, the self-protection system and the flight simulator. The delivery of the first aircraft in the upgraded configuration will potentially be followed by the retrofit of the remaining 11 aircraft in service with the Aeronautica Militare.

An Italian C-27J Spartan operating on an unprepared runway in support of Special Operation Forces. (Photo: Aeronautica Militare)

“The latest evolution of the C-27J further improves the Spartan’s efficacy and operational capability. We’re proud to announce that the Italian Air Force has chosen the new avionic configuration of the C-27J, which will provide even better performance and efficiency,” said Dario Marfè, Senior Vice President Commercial and Customer Services of Leonardo, Aircraft Division. “With its versatility and mission flexibility, the C-27J offers an even broader range of capabilities to support the operators in facing new challenges.”

According to Leonardo, the C-27J will receive a significant upgrade of its avionic suite through the integration of new features such as the Mission Computer, the Flight Management System, Head Up and Head Down displays, radio and satellite communication systems, self-protection system and other upgrades improving the aircraft’s flexibility and operational effectiveness. As a consequence, the training devices and teaching material of the C-27’s training system will also be updated on the basis of the new systems introduced on-board.

C-27s on the flight line at Pisa-San Giusto airport, with the special tail for the 50,000 flight hours milestone visible in the background. (Photo: Aeronautica Militare)

Among the aircraft that will be upgraded there are the EC-27J JEDI and the MC-27J Praetorian. The EC-27 is a heavily modified variant of the baseline Spartan, which carries Electronic Warfare mission with the Jamming and Electronic Defense Instrumentation system. The fleet is currently being expanded to three aircraft. The MC-27, on the other hand, was developed to provide support to Special Forces, with three aircraft modified and capable of embarking a palletized GAU-23 30mm automatic cannon.

Just a month before the announcement of the upgrade of the Italian C-27s, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded Leonardo a contract to upgrade the avionics of the C-27J Spartan fleets of the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the US Coast Guard (USCG), which operate 7 and 14 aircraft, respectively, which were transferred by the US Air Force. The upgrade, according to the contract notice, will be performed at Leonardo’s facilities in Naples, Italy.

Australia and Romania also signed agreements to upgrade their fleets. Leonardo has been long working on new specialized versions of the Spartan as part of the development program, resulting also in retrofit possibilities designed to constantly improve the aircraft already in service with various operators around the world.

About Stefano D’Urso
Stefano D’Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he’s also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.

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