Friday, 18 May 2012


 The C-27J Spartan has been in the news of late and as a prime candidate to fill the Fixed Wing Search & Rescue program we can expect to hear more about it. 

 The C-27J Spartan started off as a perfectly respectable twin engine military cargo plane made in Italy. Originally designed in the 1960’s, The Aeritalia G.222 (formerly Fiat Aviazione now Alenia Aeronautica) evolved over the years into the C-27. Alenia was in alliance with Lockheed-Martin to sell the aircraft as an adjunct to the Hercules transport. The C-130 Hercules is essentially the worlds standard military air lifter.With the same engines and a cockpit featuring a similar layout the two aircraft  were seen as  complementary. Lock-Mart gave up on this idea when they realized that in some markets the Italian product was competing with there own offering. Alenia didn’t give up and with the U.S. firm L-3 Communications as their partner re-branded the product as the C-27J to emphasize its commonality with latest Hercules model, the C-130J.

 In the United States, the U.S. army wanted tactical airlift for its troops. The Army believed that this was not a high priority for the U.S. Air Force which it saw as preferring zoomey high performance jet fighters. The USAF, on the other hand, believed that it was fundamentally wrong for the Army to fly airplanes. The Air Force compromise was that they would purchase and operate the C-27J’s. Everybody happy, especially the folks in the town where Alenia had promised to build the aircraft if the USAF brought the 145 planes the army felt were needed. Even the National Guard was happy as it meant new aircraft and new missions for them. Unfortunately for all, the wars were ended, the budget was cut, and something had to give. It turned out that the Air Force, in its wisdom, felt that the most expendable item in its inventory was the C-27J. On January 26 2012, in a paper entitled “Defense Budget Priorities and Choices” the US Department of Defense announced plans to sell off all C-27Js on order as “their niche capabilities are no longer required”. By cancelling the purchase, and moth balling the aircraft that had already been manufactured they felt they could save a lot of money.

 When U.S. Air Force announced it would end its C-27 program there were twenty-one aircraft involved. Twelve aircraft had been delivered, four were going through their final assembly and testing, and five were in production. It was suggested in some quarters that Canada, as well as some other countries might be able to pick up a good deal on very lightly used C-27J’s from the USAF. Alenia, already stung by the loss of the order, responded to the suggestion by announcing that any of the US aircraft that were resold by the USAF could expect no support at all from the manufacturer.

 In Australia, they were also looking for tactical air lift. The previous aircraft filling the role, the de Havilland Canada built Caribou, had been out of service for some years, but its short take-off and landing (STOVL) capabilities were still missed. On May 10, 2012, even though for all its other sterling attributes the C-27J lacked STOVL abilities, it was announced that:
 “Australia has confirmed that it will obtain 10 Alenia C-27J Spartan tactical transport aircraft for A$1.4 billion ($1.4 billion) through the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Mechanism. The C-27J was assessed by Defence as the aircraft which best met all the essential capability requirements and provides the best value for money," Australia's Department of Defence said in a statement. "It was assessed as being able to fly further, faster, higher while carrying more cargo and requiring a smaller runway than the other aircraft under consideration, the Airbus Military C-295."

It should be pointed out here that the Airbus C-295 is also another leading contender for the Canadian Fixed Wing Search & Rescue (FWSR) program. It is a somewhat smaller, somewhat less capable, aircraft with a somewhat smaller price tag. In general countries with money who want more air transport capability have chosen to buy the C-27J. Countries with less money or more specific Search & Rescue requirements have purchased the C-295. It is not considered to be suitable for Search & Rescue in Canada (at least by the RCAF) as it lacks the range and speed called for by a Search and Rescue system based on a few, southern, airfields in a very large country with a very large northern area to cover.

 In Canada, we are looking for an aircraft to fill the Fixed Wing Search & Rescue program.  Canada’s insistence on labelling them as a Search & Rescue aircraft can be a slight embarrassment. As well as replacing aging C-130’s they are also replacing Buffalo aircraft in Canadian service. The original replacement for the Caribou, the de Havilland Canada Buffalo is no longer in production, although the current Canadian licence holder (Viking Canada) has offered to produce an updated model, the Buffalo NG. 

 To see Vikings position check out,

 The C-27J also suffers from a widely held belief the RCAF has tilted the field in favour of purchasing C-27J’s rather then any other aircraft by tailoring the statement of operational requirements with the object of increasing the possibility that the C-27J would be acquired.

 What the C-27J does provide is air transport. It’s a smaller, slightly cheaper, Hercules. Getting more of that capability is what Air Forces want. There are other alternatives to the C-27J, buying more Hercules aircraft for instance. C-27J’s, however, can be sold to governments on the basis that they are less expensive, and can be seen as filling a variety of roles.

Specifications C-27J  
Data from Alenia Aeronautica C-27J facts
  • Maximum speed: 602 km/h (374 mph; 325 kn)
  • Cruising speed: 583 km/h (362 mph; 315 kn)
  • Minimum control speed: 194 km/h; 121 mph (105 kn)
  • Range: 1,852 km (1,151 mi; 1,000 nmi) with 10,000 kilograms (22,000 lb) payload
  • Range at 6,000 kg payload: 4,260 km (2,650 mi; 2,300 nmi)
  • Ferry range: 5,926 km (3,682 mi; 3,200 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 9,144 m (30,000 ft)
General characteristics
  • Crew: Minimum two: pilot, co-pilot, (plus loadmaster when needed)
  • Capacity: 60 troops or 46 paratroops or 36 litters with 6 medical personnel
  • Payload: 11,500 kg (25,353 lb)
  • Length: 22.7 m (74 ft 6 in)
  • Wingspan: 28.7 m (94 ft 2 in)
  • Height: 9.64 m (31 ft 8 in)
  • Wing area: 82 m2 (880 sq ft)
  • Empty weight: 17,000 kg (37,479 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 30,500 kg (67,241 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce AE2100-D2A turboprop, 3,460 kW (4,640 hp) each
  • Propellers: 6-bladed Dowty Propeller 391/6-132-F/10, 4.15 m (13 ft 7 in) diameter