Alenia Aermacchi and Alliant Techsystems (ATK) are planning to begin testing the first MC-27J multimission C-27J airlifter — outfitted with a 30mm cannon for the gunship role — this fall.

The test campaign comes as the manufacturer works to carve out more market share for the tactical airlifter in the wake of a U.S. Air Force decision earlier this year to walk away from it and shelve brand new hardware owing to budget pressure.

Alenia/ATK will be ready to deliver the first MC-27J multimission variant of the C-27J Spartan tactical airlifter within 12 months from an order, according to team officials.

The two companies are jointly proposing the MC-27J as a multimission, modular aircraft suitable for a variety of roles, from command and control, to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and fire support/attack. The intent is to further challenge the EADS C-239 and C-295 aircraft in markets outside the U.S. and Italy.

The gunship version, on display at this year’s Farnborough air show, includes ATK’s palletized GAU-23 Bushmaster 30mm chain gun, coupled with a simple target sighting system for the first iteration; with this configuration the pilot will have to maneuver the aircraft to engage targets.

Aerodynamic testing on this version will begin in the fall; tests for engaging targets haven’t yet been scheduled. Ultimately, the goal is to integrate an electro-optical targeting system that will train the gun as well to add Hellfire and 2.75mm rocket launchers.

The team estimates a potential market for up to 50 aircraft over the next 20 years, says Dave Sharpin, vice president of strategy and business development at ATK. The palletized kit also is available for customers already operating various models of the C-27, according to Ben Stone, Alenia’s vice president for special projects.

ATK has already done similar work on light aircraft, including the Cessna Caravan and the C-27 rival, the EADS C-239/295, as well as the larger MC-130W operated by the U.S. Air Force.

A potential future addition of intelligence collection equipment — such as and infrared camera, communications antennas, and signals intelligence collectors — would require a more complex effort.

Meanwhile, the Italian air force has an ongoing project to develop a special forces variant of a few of its C-27Js under the Pretorian program. Though this new project is not directly connected to Pretorian, there are conceptual linkages and lessons between the two. And Italy says it is open to evaluating an “off the shelf” additional capability.