Australia’s C-27J Spartan battlefield airlifter has achieved initial operating capability (IOC), Minister for Defence Senator Marise Payne announced on Friday.
“The Spartan can access airfields that are unable to support larger transport aircraft, thus increasing the reach for Defence when supporting communities across Australia and throughout the Asia Pacific region,” Minister Payne said in a statement.
“The Spartan can now be tasked on missions to transport 40 passengers or three military pallets of cargo, as well as fulfil roles such as light equipment airdrop.”
To date, Air Force has received four of the 10 C-27J Spartans Australia has on order. The aircraft are operated by 35 Squadron out of RAAF Base Richmond while facilities at their permanent home at RAAF Base Amberley are being built.
The delivery of the fourth C-27J took place on December 7, when A34-005 landed in Australia after its delivery flight from the US.
The C-27J has been designated as a replacement aircraft for the Caribou, which was retired in 2009, with the first RAAF C-27J arriving at RAAF Base Richmond in June 2015.
Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Leo Davies described the C-27J Spartan as the missing piece in Australia’s air mobility matrix.
“The arrival of the Spartan will greatly increase the mobility and flexibility for local commanders, allowing intra-theatre airlift that will bridge C-130J Hercules and CH-47 Chinook options,” AIRMSHL Davies said.
Final operational capability (FOC) was expected to occur in December 2017 and coincide with the relocation of 35SQN to Amberley, where Air Mobility Group’s C-17s and KC-30s are based, Defence has said previously.
One RAAF C-27J Spartan blew out two tyres during a night time pilot training flight at Waco, Texas on May 18, causing the temporary closure of the airport while the aircraft was inspected and removed from the runway.
The C-27J is built by Italy’s Leonardo (formerly Alenia Aermacchi) and is powered by two Rolls-Royce AE2100-D2A turboprops. The aircraft is being acquired from prime contractor L3 Communications via a US Government Foreign Military Sales deal.