IAI signs a contract with Italy for two SIGINT E550

Israel Aerospace Industries signs contract with Italy for two special mission aircraft

Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) is a somewhat “obscure” collection of intelligence by intercepting signals, whether communications between people (communications intelligence – abbreviated COMINT) or electronic signals not directly used in communication (electronic intelligence – abbreviated ELINT).

Signals intelligence has become an important aspect of managing intelligence gathering. Traffic analysis, the study of who is reporting who and how much, is also used to reintegrate information.

Most air forces have dedicated aircraft full of sensors and radars and the Aeronautica Militare (ItAF, Italian Air Force) was no exception. But with the removal of their Alenia G222VS MM62107 (msn 4012) in 2012, they faced an intelligence gap.

They fixed the issue with the Lockheed Martin (former Grumman) Gulfstream III N30LX (msn 438) “Dragon Star”, which was acquired for one year under a leased flight hour contract from Lockheed Martin. The Gulfstream had been stationed at Aeronautica Militare 14° Stormo (Wing) at Pratica di Mare Air Base near Rome since late April 2012, and was operated by crews from Aeronautica Militare and Lockheed Martin.

This particular Gulfstream was a Lockheed Martin flying intelligence surveillance reconnaissance testbed and fitted with an electro-optical sensor and ground data link, in addition to communications intelligence, electronic intelligence equipment.

Under the contract, the Lockheed crew provided sensor training to the Italian Armed Forces in Italy, while Aeronautica Militare pilots were trained in the United States. The aircraft was returned to Lockheed Martin in November 2013.

Training and experience resulted in a contract to purchase two E-550As, based on the Lockheed Martin Gulfstream G550. They, MM62293/14-11 (msn 5429) and MM62303/14-12 (msn 5454) were delivered in 2016 and 2017 by the Savannah (GA) manufacturer to IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries). The E-550A contract followed Israel’s decision to purchase thirty Leonardo (then Alenia) M-346 advanced jet trainers. IAI was responsible for the Multiband Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) radar system. Both aircraft were again stationed at Aeronautica Militare 14° Stormo (Wing) at Pratica di Mare Air Base.

In 2020, the Italian Ministry of Defense published its multi-year planning document for 2020-2022 (Documento Programmatico Pluriennale) showing a major increase in its defense budget. One of the priorities was the C4ISTAR platform (Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Information/Intelligence, Surveillance and TARgeting) based on the Gulfstream G550.

Because of this priority, the U.S. Defense and Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) approved a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Italian government of two Gulfstream G550 CAEWs on December 15, 2020. On March 7, 2022, the first example with Matricola Militare (military recording) MM62329/14-13 (msn 5581) landed at Pratica di Mare Air Base.

With this new JAMMS (Joint Airborne Multi-Sensor Multi-Mission System), the Italian Air Force has a C4ISTAR platform equipped with modern sensors for real-time information sharing. Not only to collect and share data and information more efficiently, but also to manage the battle in the digital battlefield.

In December 2020, the Italian Ministry of Defense again published plans to purchase up to eight new Lockheed Martin Gulfstream SIGINT aircraft and build a maintenance center for similar aircraft operated by other countries around the Mediterranean. The plans, which have been outlined in documents provided to Italy’s parliament, would bolster Italy’s signals intelligence capability as the Mediterranean becomes a flashpoint for regional tensions with neighbors such as Turkey, Egypt disputing the future of Libya without law and without forgetting the current war. in Ukraine.

With up to ten Lockheed Martin Gulfstream G550s in its fleet, Italy would set up a maintenance operation that would not only service its own aircraft, but would be able “to offer services to the Gulfstream fleet operating in Europe and the Middle East, with approximately 200 jobs”. created,” the document reads. No indication has been given of which company would be contracted to supply the two converted aircraft or carry out the conversion work on the other six, so far.

IAI has signed contracts with Italy worth approximately $550 million for the sale of two more G550s, as well as ground support and logistics services for the Aeronautica Militare. They will be similar to the Gulfstream V Nachshon Shavit aircraft which serves the Israeli Air Force.

Photo credit: Aeronautica Militare

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