Leonardo has won a $70 million contract to replace and upgrade the radio capability on Australia’s C-27J Spartan fleet.
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Australia currently has 10 Spartans operated by No. 35 Squadron from RAAF Base Amberley, which now focuses on peacetime operations such as search and rescue and aeromedical operations.
Air Vice-Marshal Leon Phillips, head of aerospace systems division, said, “Upgrading the cryptographic radio function of the C-27J platform will ensure ongoing availability of secure communications, including interoperability with key strategic partners and intelligence networks, and increased overall safety for our Australian Defence Force personnel.”
Leonardo, the original manufacturer of the Spartan, was selected as the prime contractor, and the “Commonwealth Avionics Upgrade” will begin in September 2023 at Amberley.
The work is due to be completed in 2026.
It comes after the aircraft last month joined a KA350 King Air in patrolling the South West Pacific to conduct surveillance missions to stop illegal fishing.
The aircraft were helping the island countries of Vanuatu and Kiribati as part of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency’s (FFA) Operation Island Chief.
The RAAF C-27J Spartan and KA350 King Air aircraft operated out of Port Vila and Tarawa, respectively, at the request of the government of Kiribati.
The C-27J Spartan’s contribution included flying 11 missions over Vanuatu’s exclusive economic zones (EEZ), reporting more than 50 vessels to the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
In addition to the RAAF aircraft, an ADF Air liaison officer and geospatial and intelligence specialists were deployed to assist the FFA alongside members of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Fijian Navy, and United States Coast Guard.
Commander of ADF Operations in the South West Pacific, Major General Scott Winter, said the ADF’s contribution formed part of a larger commitment to preserving stability in the region.
“Australia is committed to helping our Pacific family protect their fisheries resources, support regional security and counter transnational crime,” MAJGEN Winter said.
“Supporting operations like Island Chief allows us to work with the FFA, our Pacific partners, and members of the Pacific Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group (Australia, the United States, New Zealand, and France) to ensure the economic security and prosperity of the Pacific through the protection of its critical maritime industries and ecosystems.
“We are at our best when we face these challenges together — as partners, and as a region.”