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Govt requests pricing & availability for a RAAF C-27J buy

written by australianaviation.com.au | October 19, 2011

Headed this way? The C-27J. (Alenia)

The federal government has confirmed it has requested pricing and availability of 10 Alenia C-27J tactical transport aircraft for the RAAF.

The Air 8000 Phase 2 Battlefield Airlifter (BFA) project aims to replace the tactical airlift capability left vacant by the retirement of the RAAF’s DHC Caribou in December 2009, and has been put off by successive governments over a period of more than 20 years.

The C-130H and C-130J Hercules operated by Richmond based 37SQN have to some extent fulfilled this role in recent years, but the Hercules lacks the short field performance and is much heavier than the Caribou or its possible replacements, while helicopters lack the range or speed of a fixed wing aircraft.

In a statement released on October 19, Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Defence Materiel Minister Jason Clare said the formal request was being sent now because production of 38 C-27Js for the US Air National Guard was coming to an end. “Due to the pending closure of the production line for US Air National Guard aircraft the Government has authorised Defence to issue a non-binding/no-commitment Letter of Request seeking price and availability information on the C-27J,” the statement reads.

While Defence was unable to confirm at time of writing to which organisation the request had been submitted, the ministerial statement suggests the C-27J may be acquired through the US Foreign Military Sales process. This would give Australia an opportunity to tie into the US’s sustainment and upgrade program for its fleet, as well as giving greater economies of scale for both operators.


Recent media reports suggest US politicians are pushing for an increase in the US ANG fleet to as many as 75 C-27Js, as the type is now in operation in Afghanistan and has proven to be far more economical than the larger C-130 with typical loads. The C-27J shares common engines and cockpit avionics architecture with the C-130J.

The formal request doesn’t mean the C-27J has been selected to fulfil the Air 8000 Phase requirement over Airbus’s rival C295. “The information from the Letter of Request will inform Government consideration of capability, cost and schedule issues associated with this project as well as consideration of the acquisition strategy, including whether a roader tender process will be pursued,” the ministerial statement said.

But the RAAF is known to have long favoured the more rugged structure and larger cargo hold of the C-27J over the smaller but longer C295, and is likely to push for a sole-source selection. The statement says it expects a response to the request by February 2012, after which “careful consideration of all the options will then proceed.”

The statement has also for the first time officially acknowledged that Defence is developing options to retain the C-130H fleet – of which about eight aircraft are operational out of a core fleet of 12 – beyond its planned retirement in 2013 out to 2016.

UPDATE 3.11pm 19/10/11: Defence has confirmed that Australia’s letter of request for 10 C-27Js was submitted to the US Government, which means it would likely be an FMS sale through the US Air Force.

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Comments (15)

  • Nigel Howarth


    I think somebody is being a bit liberal with the facts: production of the 38 a/c for the USAF is nowhere near at an end. They have taken only 11 so far in just over 2 years. There are several years to go before their order is fulfilled.

  • David Smith


    Worse percurement decision ever!! These aircraft are a complete waste of money. They won’t do what the Caribou can and the much touted short field landing and take off performance is only marginally better than a C-130. The RAAF is much to small to support another aircraft type and ultimately any money spent on these could be better spent purchasing other aircraft

  • Mike


    We have wasted so much money looking at a replacement ( literally hundreds of millions of dollars)as was quoted before over the years, we could have had 2 complete fleets of short field aircraft and still had change. Buy something now , it has compatable engines with the hercules, it will do the job with a much lower per hour cost. You can’t please everyone.If these Government procurement people worked in the private sector they would be fired in a second for their incompetence



    David if you think these aircraft will be a waste of money, perhaps they will make up for it in their ability to be more economical than the C130 when transporting smaller loads.

  • Allan


    Finally it looks like the end of a much delayed and often frustrating process is coming to an end, Hopefully nothing will shoot down the decision this time. As has been pointed out, Nothing will replace the Caribou`s impressive short field performance, At least the Air Force will not burn up precious C-130 hrs in short flights without a full load.

  • Wayne


    C-27J is the perfect partner for C-130J. Same engine/prop/. same glass cockpit. Easy for crew transition. The Herc is too much aircraft for many missions. Not every flight is into a small grass field. The Caribou excelled at that but failed in other missions being too slow and the cabin too small to carry modern Army “stuff”…..

  • Andy


    Would it not have been more cost effective to put the Caribou though a mid life up date ?
    They made be old; but they are “Good at their job” after look at the DC-3 C-5 B-52 to name a few I
    I am told there are several companies bringing those old warhorse back to life, with new engines and complete make overs, bringing them up to standard for current requirements.

    Surely that would be worth considering; the Caribou they maybe old, but only a Caribou can do what a Caribou
    Look at what the RNZAF have done with their old C-130 for example.

    such a pity they are being sold off when how much who an update cost compared to purchase price of the C-27J or C-295

  • Ian


    Surely the cost of this aircraft – in fact AIR 8000 – cannot be justified. At $1.5 billion It is difficult to see what buying this aircraft can offer in extra capability to justify the cost. In an article in AA about King Airs an officer said ‘ In reality we probably practiced STOL mission more than we would ever use it operationally. and that the operational tempo of the ADF had taken that away.’ That was to justify a fleet of King Airs only as an interim. There must be significantly cheaper options including leasing say 19 -25 seat civil aircraft which could be used for STOL missions and leave the rest to the Herc. I see they want to retain the H models for a long while more anyway. In these trying financial times when this Government is spending like a drunken sailor now is the time to review this requirement.

  • John A Gates


    I saw that Viking Air in British Columbia is planning to build new Buffaloes. That would solve the problem for someone. We have been dithering, in the true Australian bureaucrat style for so long, that it is no wonder that someone never “Hello, lets get to co build these in Australi and Canada”. But then, it would have partly been built here and the bother boys in the aircraft unions, would put a stop to that. John Gates

  • Darren


    Whatever the government does re purchase C-27J; C-295; or C-130J it has got to be more effective than King Air’s keeping aircrew ‘current’. Am yet to see them deliver a jeep! Personally I still think 8 C-130H (later replaced by J’s) and 12 CH-47F’s to do the job. (Just how many strips does the RAAF need to fly into for the Army that can’t take the C-130? And is it really that much more cost effective when while it is similar it really isn’t the same as a C-130 and will require its own spares in the field?)

  • David Churchus


    The C-27J is a purpose-designed military freighter. It has many systems in common with the larger C-130J30
    Hercules and can economically complement the -J and -H model by flying smaller loads into ‘awkward’ airstrips. The C-295 is essentially a personnel transport. It has a narrow and low tubular fuselage unsuited to transport of bulky freight such as GS and engineer vehicles.
    Ten C-27J could be enough. But if air-air refuelling of helicopters is added then – lacking C-130 tankers – approx sixteen C-27J will be required.

  • Allan


    Just wondering if the V-22 Osprey was ever a contender. it would be the ideal short field performer.

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