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Leonardo and the Italian Defence Ministry’s Air Force Armament and Airworthiness Directorate (Armaereo) have signed a contract related to the upgrading of the Italian Air Force’s fleet of C-27J Spartan tactical transport aircraft, the Italian company announced on 7 March 2023.

The contract covers the development, integration, qualification and certification of a new avionics configuration for the C-27J and the upgrading of a number of systems, including its self-protection suite and flight simulator.

It also includes delivery of the first aircraft in this new configuration, after which the remaining 11 aircraft in the Italian Air Force’s C-27J fleet are likely to be similarly retrofitted.

A C-27J in service with the Italian Air Force, which is now joining other Spartan users in upgrading their C-27J fleets. (Photo: Leonardo)

The avionics upgrade will integrate new features in relation to the mission computer, flight management system, head-up and head-down displays, radio and satellite communication systems, and self-protection system along with other upgrades to improve the aircraft’s flexibility and operational effectiveness. The C-27J training system will also be updated to accommodate the upgrades, aligning both flight simulators and courseware with the new configuration.

Leonardo noted in its press release that other operators of the C-27J, including the Royal Australian Air Force, Romanian Air Force, US Special Operations Command and the US Coast Guard, have already chosen to upgrade their fleets.

Originally developed by Alenia, the C-27J Spartan is a versatile tactical transport that can be rapidly reconfigured for specific roles through the integration of roll-on/roll-off mission systems. Beyond the aircraft’s essential role as a tactical transport, these allow the aircraft to perform missions that include maritime patrol/anti-submarine warfare; command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C3ISR); battlefield medical evacuation, airdropping of troops and cargo, signals intelligence, VIP transportation and firefighting.

Peter Felstead