Also from Alenia is the MC-27J gunship and armed reconnaissance derivative of the C-27J transport, developed in collaboration with ATK, which provides the 30-mm Bushmaster gun. In addition to the gun, the MC-27J features a multispectral sensor suite, including radar with synthetic aperture radar and ground moving target indication modes, and a palletized precision-weapons launcher mounted on the rear loading ramp.
Now that directed infrared countermeasures systems—in which Alenia's sister company Selex ES is heavily involved—have been shown to provide effective defense against man-portable missiles of the type used to shoot down an AC-130 in the first Persian Gulf war, gunships could address concerns, expressed after the Libya operations in 2011, that persistent operations by fighters are an extremely expensive way to prosecute large, low-value target sets.
Selex ES itself—making its first appearance at a major show as a unified company—will be showing the Falco and Falco Evo UAVs—underlining the point that it is the only company outside Israel that can provide UAVs and their complete sensor suites. Selex will also be showing VigilX, a 360-deg. staring electro-optical system for helicopter pilotage.
On the armament side, Rafael will be introducing the Spice-250, the smallest (250-lb.-class) version of its precision-guided weapon family. Already combat proven, Spice-250 represents an alternative to the U.S. Small Diameter Bomb family, but differs in using the Spice family's imaging infrared scene-matching guidance system rather than relying on GPS or laser designation.
Joint European UAV programs are a perennial Le Bourget talking point—leading some to speculate that they may never be anything else. However, Italy's frustration with its inability to get approval for arming its Reaper UAVs may be spurring interest in a new European program. Of course, that raises the usual thorny questions about partnerships, leadership roles and relationships—including Dassault's reluctance to get involved with Germany's industry and military.