Rugged, reliable, manoeuvrable, versatile, suitable for any terrain and type of mission, from tactical transport to support in the event of natural disasters and air drops of personnel and equipment behind the front line: introducing the C-27J Spartan, now part of the Royal Australian Air Force.
In May 2012, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) commissioned 10 C-27J Spartans, through the Foreign Military Sales programme of the US Government, to replace the outdated De Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou transport aircraft withdrawn from service in 2009. The first C-27J was delivered to the RAAF in late June 2015 and there are currently four aircraft in service in Australia.
The C-27Js destined for the RAAF are assembled in Italy at the Turin Caselle plant of Leonardo's Aircraft Division and delivered to L-3 Integrated Systems in Waco, Texas, where they are completed in the Joint Cargo Aircraft configuration. The three-month process includes the installation of the self-protection system with electronic warfare and infrared countermeasures, communications equipment featuring U.S. standards and ballistic protection elements.
Arlington, Texas near the city of Dallas in the U.S., is home of an Operational Flight Trainer available to RAAF crews as well as a Fuselage Trainer, a fuselage with all systems running just like on a real aircraft, for the training of loadmasters responsible for the cargo compartment. This training will shortly take place entirely in Australia.
Initial operating capability achieved
In December 2016, the Australian Minister of Defence, Senator Hon. Marise Payne, announced the achievement of initial operating capability for the C-27J Spartan fleet, congratulating the RAAF for reaching this important goal.
This milestone significantly increases the RAAF's operational flexibility and ability to transport personnel, equipment, military cargo pallets and supplies in Australia and surrounding areas. It was estimated that the C-27Js can operate out of 400 airports across Australia, compared to only 200 accessible to the larger C-130 Hercules (1900 vs. 500 in the whole Asia-Pacific area).
The Australian Ministry of Defence expressed its complete satisfaction with the tactical transport aircraft produced by Leonardo. The RAAF’s C-27J Spartan fleet is expected to reach final operating capability in December 2017.
There are currently four C-27Js in Australia with which initial operating capability has been achieved - Copyright Commonwealth of Australia
In service with the No. 35 Squadron
The C-27J has entered service with the No. 35 Squadron of the RAAF, department in which all the Spartans will be employed, currently at the RAAF Base Richmond in Queensland and later to be transferred to the RAAF Base Amberley, still in Queensland, in 2019.
After assessed the operational evaluation of the aircraft’s capabilities targeted to achieve initial operational capability, the No. 35 Squadron will employ the C-27J in its operations as part of the Air Mobility Group, the RAAF command that handles all aircraft in support of Australian Armed Forces operations.
At the same time, the transport unit is increasing its specific hands-on experience, qualifying RAAF crews as well as pilots straight out of flight schools. Creating meaningful levels of experience is important, especially when it comes to battlefield airlift missions, providing support to men and helicopters on the front line, including precision air drops of paratroopers, pallets, equipment and material.
Interoperability and aeromedical evacuation
The ability of the C-27J to easily transfer loads of materials on pallets onto CH-47D Chinook helicopters and vice versa was demonstrated by a series of tests involving Australian Army Aviation units. Leonardo's aircraft is thus capable of bridging the gap between the larger C-130 Hercules and the CH-47s, making transport within the theatre of operations possible and greatly increasing mobility and flexibility for field commanders.
The RAAF will also use the C-27J Spartan for important aeromedical evacuation operations. The C-27J is in fact capable of operating on short and small-sized runways and to land/take off on terrains that are inaccessible to larger transport aircraft, such as the battlefield and areas affected by humanitarian or natural disasters.