Special Delivery

Highly adaptable Gulfstream aircraft serve in missions around the world
aviation, g550, special missions
Written By Lesley Conn

Few Gulfstream aircraft have been delivered to such national celebration.

Proudly escorted into Warsaw, Poland, by two fighter jets, a gleaming red and white Gulfstream G550 landed at Frédéric Chopin Airport on a bright June day. As water cannons from military fire trucks created an arcing, misty veil, the G550 rolled up to eagerly waiting dignitaries. A local priest, his cassock and stole fluttering, offered a blessing as he sprinkled holy water at the aircraft stairs.

Next would come naming the G550 after Prince Józef Poniatowski. A second G550, delivered weeks later, was designated as Gen. Casimir Pulaski. The names of the two generals were the top vote-getters in a government contest to name the aircraft. The query drew more than 1,100 entries.

The Gulfstream jets will serve as head-of-state aircraft for Poland’s president, the prime minister and other ministers.

While Poland’s celebration is noteworthy, the use of Gulfstream aircraft in special service roles isn’t unusual. Since 1967—50 years and counting—Gulfstream jets have served as special missions platforms.

Their initial use as trainers for U.S. Navy pilots, head of state and VIP transport planes has expanded into highly technical operations including atmospheric research, airborne surveillance and reconnaissance, maritime search and rescue, and medical evacuation. Today, these aircraft serve in 39 countries worldwide.

“Gulfstream’s 50 years of special missions success is a reflection of its long-demonstrated ability to provide and support reliable, highly adaptable aircraft that excel in a variety of mission types,” says Leda Chong, senior vice president, Government Programs and Sales, Gulfstream. “Compared with other aircraft, Gulfstream aircraft fly farther, faster and higher, enhancing mission effectiveness and operational efficiency.”

A Variety of Mission Types

More than 205 Gulfstream aircraft are in service supporting governments and their missions, including many as head of state and VIP transport.

Jeff Crosby, senior manager of government contracts, Gulfstream, cites several reasons for Gulfstream large-cabin aircraft becoming the preferred choice for head-of-state aircraft.

“Number one is the safety record and reliability,” he says. “They are going to be transporting the most important people in their government. And they are VIPs, so they value options that enhance productivity such as cabin connectivity, the quiet interior and the low cabin altitude.”

Governments and emergency service operations around the world identify large-cabin Gulfstream as the best choice for highly complex airborne operations. Beijing Red Cross Emergency Medical Center—also called Beijing 999—has chosen the G550 to serve as a surgical medevac for disaster relief and air rescue services. Scheduled to enter service in 2018, the aircraft will house one of the most sophisticated airborne surgical suites ever developed.

Israel, Singapore and Italy have chosen the G550 for their airborne electronic surveillance missions. Another dozen or so nations are considering the G550 to meet their operational requirements.

In the United States, the G550 was recently selected by the U.S. Navy as a telemetry range support aircraft. The G550 is also under consideration for the U.S. Air Force program JSTARS (Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System), a 17-aircraft proposal that will replace aging Boeing 707 aircraft. Additionally, the G550 is under consideration to be the new aircraft for the U.S. Air Force’s Compass Call program, which seeks to replace aging EC-130H aircraft that perform electronic surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

With its ultralong range of 6,750 nautical miles, the G550 stays aloft longer than other special mission aircraft, and its high-altitude capabilities enable surveillance over large geographic areas, enhancing mission support to ground and air operations.

Platform Adaptability

One hallmark of Gulfstream aircraft is their robust ability to perform, and nowhere is that ability more tested than in special missions programs. Modifications to the aircraft are not uncommon, and Gulfstream has an entire team and facilities dedicated to incorporating design changes to meet customer needs.

The greatest visible change occurs when the exterior of the aircraft, known as the Outer Mold Line, is expanded with additions along the fuselage or with pods added to the underside of the aircraft to provide additional space for sensors, antennas and other vital mission equipment.

Extensive interior modifications can be made to accommodate mission crew and equipment. For a German G550 tasked with high-altitude atmospheric testing, Gulfstream created two optical viewing ports that allow scientists to beam lasers into the clouds to obtain density readings.

A third area of frequent modification provides additional capabilities, such as more electrical power or accommodating extra payload.

Gulfstream’s Special Missions Modification Facility has design engineers and technicians on hand to work with government customers and their modification needs. Given their decades of special missions experience, they have a knowledge base to efficiently and expertly complete a modification that meets demanding mission requirements.

Gulfstream Support

Special missions support extends beyond designing and manufacturing an aircraft.

Government customers have access to Gulfstream’s award-winning product support network—the people, service centers and parts designed to quickly respond to customers and their aircraft needs wherever in the world they may be, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Government customers also have access to training. Gulfstream coordinates with FlightSafety International Inc. to provide pilot training. Service technicians also learn the proper Gulfstream procedures for working on the aircraft.

For the delivery to Poland, 12 pilots, 25 technicians and six flight attendants went through several weeks of training. Gulfstream Flight Operations traveled to Warsaw to work alongside technicians and support staff.

Having such a technologically advanced aircraft and the skilled crew to support the G550 is a significant change for the government of Poland, which for years had been relying on an aging Soviet fleet for much of its priority travel needs.

Change is welcomed.

“The delivery of the G550 means a new level of quality in the Polish Air Force,” says Col. Michal Marciniak, armament inspectorate for the air force. “For the first time in our history, we have such a modern and safe aircraft. This is the first step toward achieving operational readiness we need that will allow us to transport the highest officials in Poland.”

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