Likely seeking to tramp down concerns over its ability to support any C-27J transports purchased by Australia, Alenia Aermacchi and longtime partner L-3 Communications issued a statement today reiterating their commitment to “meeting the needs of the Commonwealth.”
“The capability that the C-27J can provide for the Commonwealth is well suited to its operational requirements,” Alenia CEO Guiseppe Giordo said in the statement. “Beyond delivering the capability, we are committed to a long term and value added relationship with the Commonwealth that will enable them to operate and maintain the capability autonomously throughout its service life.”
The statement offered few specifics, however, and is unlikely to quiet the questions swirling around the C-27J after Alenia said it would refuse to support used aircraft sold by the US to third countries. The US, which ordered 21 C-27Js, cancelled the program earlier this month due to budget cuts and is reportedly seeking buyers for its nearly new aircraft, all of which have been delivered since 2008.
Alenia and L-3 have a longstanding partnership to market the C-27J through the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, and today’s statement indicates their position that an FMS purchase of new aircraft remains a viable option for Australia. It’s unclear how much the US withdrawal from the program will impact the long term cost effectiveness of an FMS purchase, but it’s not likely to make it a more attractive option.
It is understood that Alenia and Raytheon Australia are also partnering to offer the C-27J to Australia as a direct commercial sale. Airbus Military, meanwhile, has used the turmoil surrounding the C-27J to launch a renewed push in favour of its C295 airlifter, though the RAAF has expressed a clear preference for the C-27J’s larger cargo hold and better short field performance.
In response to questions over Alenia’s refusal to support used C-27Js, a Defence spokesman said support arrangements would be taken into consideration as the ADF weighs its options.
“The support capacity and ability of manufactures and suppliers…are part of the evaluation process for all Defence acquisitions,” the spokesperson said.
The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency in December flagged the possible FMS sale of 10 C-27Js to Australia for an estimated US$950 million, but much has happened since then.