Secretive EC-27J JEDI EW Aircraft Supporting War On Daesh Breaks Cover On The Italian Air Force 2021 Calendar

The EC-27J Spartan flying over Iraq. (Image credit: Troupe Azzurra/ItAF)

The EC-27J JEDI made the January page of the 2021 calendar of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force).

Even though it has extensively flown in Afghanistan (between 2012 and 2014) and currently operates in Iraq, little is known about a peculiar version of the C-27J Spartan in service with the Italian Air Force and known as EC-27J JEDI (Jamming and Electronic Defense Instrumentation).

The EC-27J (whose official designation is YEC-27J in accordance with Italy’s MOD Mission Design Series) is based on the pretty successful Leonardo C-27J military transport aircraft, in service or on order with 16 different operators all over the world. The JEDI differs from the baseline Spartan because it has been extensively modified to perform Electronic Warfare missions: along with a characteristic antenna on the tail, the EC-27J carry an internal JEDI system that is used to create an “umbrella” of electronic emissions that protect personnel on the ground from IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). While we don’t know how the system works it seems quite likely that the JEDI can jam those frequency bands where the target devices are known to operate, in order to neutralize them.

The JEDI system has been completely designed by the ReSTOGE (Reparto Supporto Tecnico Operativo Guerra Elettronica – Electronic Warfare Technical Support Department), based at Pratica di Mare airbase. This unit is responsible for compiling, updating and managing the EW (Electronic Warfare) and self-protection libraries of all the Italian Air Force aircraft.

Two airframes are believed to have been converted to the EC-27J variant. At least one is deployed to Erbil, Iraq, for “Prima Parthica” (as the Italian Armed Forces contingent supporting Operation Inherent Resolve is dubbed at national level), established on Oct. 17, 2014.

In Iraq, the JEDI operates as part of Task Group “Albatros”, a team made by personnel from the ReSTOGE and the 46^ Brigata Aerea (Air Brigade), that oversees the whole Italian Air Force C-27J and C-130J fleet at Pisa airport. The Task Group has moved to Erbil from Kuwait, where it was initially based, in December 2017.

One of the YEC-27J aircraft, the one registered MM62224, has recently “broken cover” making the January shot on the Italian Air Force 2021 calendar, whose main theme is the out-of-area operations and shows also the F-35 deployed to Iceland, the Tornado in Kuwait, the G550 CAEW at Nellis AFB for Red Flag, etc.

The January shot of the 2021 calendar of the Italian Air Force featuring an EC-27J JEDI. (Image credit: Troupe Azzurra/ItAF)

The appearance of the JEDI shot on the 2021 calendar along with some details included in an accompanying text mark also an interesting shift in the communication surrounding this particular aircraft. The EC-27J’s mission has always been considered sensitive and both the ItAF and Italian MOD have always kept a “low profile” on this asset: just a handful photographs of the EW variant of the C-27J have been published in the last years (almost all were low-rez shots of the front section of the aircraft) and, until recently, the news releases have referred to the Spartan deployed in Iraq just as a C-27J, not an EC-27J.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.