ATK (UNKNOWN:ATK.DL), the company formerly (and sometimes still) known as Alliant Techsystems, is helping the Italian Air Force (ITAF) improve its aircraft.

On Wednesday, ATK announced that it and local partner Alenia Aermacchi have been selected to integrate Roll-On/Roll-Off (RORO), palletized Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C2-ISR) and gun systems onto MC-27J Spartan multi-mission aircraft.

ITAF's Spartans are being used as a sort of plug-and-play air platform capable of performing a variety of missions -- ground support gunship, airborne C2-ISR platform, border surveillance, or transport aircraft -- depending on the mission package with which they're outfitted. ATK's role in this will be to create RORO packages to plug into the Spartan to convert the plane for gunship or C2-ISR missions as needed. In the gunship configuration, Spartans will be outfitted with a side-firing GAU-23 30mm cannon that can discharge numerous types of NATO 30MM X 173 rounds, including the 30MM PGU-46/B incendiary rounds. "The gun suite uses a simple, automatic feed system in order to minimize crew size and reduce overall operating costs," says the company.

As the company explained in a statement: "Use of ATK's self-contained RORO mission and weapons systems allow rapid configuration change depending on mission requirements. They are designed for easy embarkation and disembarkation via the aircraft's rear ramp, permitting flexibility in the use of the unaltered aircraft."

Here in the U.S., the Spartan has come under fire for being more expensive to maintain and operate than similar Air Force C-130 aircraft. The U.S. Air Force is consequently planning to retire its entire fleet of Spartans, perhaps offloading them to the U.S. Coast Guard. At last report, new Spartans built for USAF under contract were being directly shipped to the Davis–Monthan Air Force Base "boneyard" upon delivery -- mothballed before they even entered service.