The “Combat Spartan” or Praetorian has made its first flight. Alenia Aermacchi confirmed the pre-configured MC-27J gunship – officially a multi-mission aircraft – completed took of from the company’s test field in Turin, Italy, on 25 April 2014.
The test aircraft has been modified with an L-3 Wescam MX-15Di Electro-Optical and Infrared Turret that is mounted under the nose of the aircraft and is optimized for ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) and SAR missions (Search and Rescue); and with Link-16 datalink software and hardware provisions that will prepare the aircraft for the ATK palletized mission system installation. Provisions for upgraded Selex ES communication system with crypto capability have been also set up.
The installation of both the ATK developed modular roll-on/roll-off mission and weapon system, and a modified side door for the GAU-23 30 mm cannon installation will be completed in May. In June 2014, a new series of flight tests, including firing the side-mounted cannon, will be completed.
The development of the MC-27J had seen the very first ground and basic flight tests already in the Spring of 2013, with the basic C-27J model, conducted by ATK and Alenia Aermacchi at Eglin AFB, Florida, USA. They tested the C-27J’s ability to host a self-contained, roll-on/roll-of gun pallet (RORO) using ATK’s GAU-23 30mm cannon in a side firing configuration. Live fire tests and a timed demonstration of the capability to quickly transition from a cargo configuration to a weaponized configuration of the aircraft exceeded all test objectives.
After completion the MC-27J not only will sport the gun, but can also use precision guided munition weapon systems while being in full flight. The Combat Spartan can do what normally is only availiable on the bigger and more expensive Hercules type of gunships (MC-130).
Source: AleniaAermacchi with additional reporting by AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger