08 Januari 2016
The Gulfstream G550 has a cruise range of 12,501 kilometres and is powered by two Rolls-Royce engines. (image : miltechmag)
Defence has confirmed a $133 million project to convert two luxury corporate jets into state-of-the-art spy planes for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
Shortly after Christmas, the United States entered into a "Foreign Military Sales arrangement" with Australia to modify two Gulfstream G550 business jets, into high-tech surveillance aircraft.
In a statement to the ABC, Defence said: "The aircraft will be modified to provide an airborne intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic warfare capability to support ADF operations.
"Further details on the capability will be provided in the Integrated Investment Program due for release this year with the Defence White Paper."
The ABC has learnt the modified aircraft are due to come into service at the end of next year.
Acting Opposition Leader Penny Wong is demanding the Government provide details to Labor.
"The Opposition hasn't been briefed on this matter and we would hope the Government would brief us in the very near future about an acquisition of this sort," Senator Wong said.
A brief statement posted on the US Defense Department website initially confirmed the project shortly after Christmas.
"L-3 Communications Mission Integration, Greenville, Texas, has been awarded a $US93,632,287 firm-fixed price undefinitised contract action task order (1648) for Australia Government G550 aircraft procurement and maintenance," it said.
"Work will be performed at Greenville, Texas, and is expected to be complete by Nov. 30, 2017.
"This contract is 100-per cent foreign military sales to Australia."
Peter Jennings from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said he was not surprised the RAAF had chosen the option, saying it was smaller, faster and cheaper to operate.
The G550 is a luxury corporate jet boasting the ability to fly more than 12 hours nonstop, and more than 12,000 kilometres.
It is powered by two Rolls Royce engines, can carry up to 18 passengers and operates out of short-field, high-altitude airports, meaning it could spy on remote and difficult locations such as Afghanistan.