australian aviation logo

Defence confirms cost & availability request for C295 too

written by australianaviation.com.au | November 2, 2011
A Spanish air force C295.

Defence has confirmed to Australian Aviation that it has requested pricing and availability for the Airbus Military C295 tactical airlifter.

The confirmation comes two weeks after a release from Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare that the government had requested the same from the US Government for an FMS sale of the Alenia C-27J Spartan.

The October 19 ministerial release highlighted that the C-27J request had been submitted “due to the pending closure of the production line” after an order for 38 aircraft for the US Air National Guard is fulfilled, but it is curious as to why no similar release regarding the C295 was issued.

Defence and industry sources have recently indicated that the RAAF prefers a sole-source buy of the C-27J, as the aircraft has better performance, it has a taller cargo bay better able to accommodate Army vehicles, and there are advantages of tagging on to the end of the US ANG buy (although it is also more expensive than the C295). Therefore, it is also unclear as to whether the requests for both types indicates that Defence is now considering holding a competition between the two aircraft for the Air 8000 Phase 2 requirement to replace the RAAF’s now retired Caribous.

Comments (12)

  • Wayne


    The C295 makes no sense in Australia. The C-27J is fully compatible with the C-130J in cargo and pallet sizes, avionics, engines, props, defensive aids etc. Crew training also would be simplified. Don’t mention that the C295 would be an orphan in our region.

  • Dane


    Why does the government bother? Everything European bought by defence has fallen by the wayside in terms of what it promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. Look at the Tiger, MRH, KC-30… the list goes on. American equipment is usaully tested thoroughly in similar environments to what Australia operates in, therefore it fits right in to our capability. The Air Force wants the C-27J but the government will probably end up buying the C-295 because it cheaper, not because it can do what Dfenece needs it to do.

  • Thomas


    Those are very simplistic pluses, that are countered by quite significant minuses.
    Pluses (and mitigating analysis of points):
    1. All those compatibilities are only relevant during technician training and maintaining parts stocks. By having the same engines it simplifies training courses and accreditations, requires fewer instructors and teaching aids, etc. The number of part types in stock can be reduced and logistics simplified, but only on the motive parts and a few avionics parts.
    2. To elaborate on the parts issue, the C-27J might be a clear favourite on this alone. European manufacturers have been quite terrible in maintaining an adequate supply of parts lately (although the C-295 is no Tiger/NH90 and more parts on the C-295 are commercial than the C-27J). Being a US aircraft should be an advantage, but it isn’t a US aircraft, it is an Italian aircraft being assembled in the US. Furthermore, with only a small number (38) ordered for ANG units, it most probably won’t travel far from the US/USAF-Europe, so there probably won’t be a deep US logistics train set up compared to C-130Js (175+) and C-17 (220+).
    3. Crew training will not be simplified much. Despite the similarity of cockpit layout (note the word “similarity” and not “exactly the same”), so much is different that you would have to go through the full training process anyway. On the flying side, pilots coming to the type would require a full conversion course, and the aircraft is so different that there would be no simplification of training for C-130J pilots converting either.
    4. Pallet/cargo sizes are a significant advantage. It greatly eases the transfer of cargo between C-130 and C-27 without the need to unpack/repack. The problem with this is, how often is this an issue? Most airfields that a C-27J will fly to a C-130 could as well, so why not just fly the load in on C-130? I would also point out that C-27/C-130 sized pallets cannot fit into CH-47 Chinooks, so if you are planning to move it in theatre by cargo helicopter then it needs to be broken down to C-295 size anyway (the CH-47 and C-295 share a similar cross-section).

    1. The C-27J isn’t just a bit more expensive, it is significantly more expensive. As in 50% more than a C-295 ($33m vs. $22m), which doesn’t include FMS costs which I understand can add an additional 10% to the price. You could probably get 14-16 C-295 for the cost of 10 C-27J. For comparison, a C-130J would be about $75m.
    2. Similarly, operating costs of the C-27J is much higher than the C-295. I’ve seen figures in the order of 30-50%, but I don’t know how accurate/informed they are. This is because of the huge engines which are arguably more powerful than needed (for C-130J compatibility) for the role, allowing shorter take offs with larger loads and better hot-high performance, but using quite a lot more fuel. The larger diameter fuselage also increases fuel consumption.

    So, the decision isn’t so simple. Do you accept 50% higher purchase cost + significantly higher operating costs for the benefit of some slightly simplified engine maintenance training, slightly simplified parts and bulk cargo logistics and superior field performance (shorter take offs, higher payloads)?
    It comes down to how the RAAF sees themselves using the aircraft. If they want a true battlefield airlifter, then the C-27J will get them into and out of hot-and-high tight spaces with useful combat loads (regular vehicles, regular pallets) and using evasive tactical maneuvers (5% of airlifter missions), but at a cost. If the RAAF sees it as a rugged cargo aircraft that will fulfill many of the missions currently undertaken by C-130s, lifting loads into unprepared strips, shuttling cargo around Australia and SE Asia/S Pacific (95% of airlifter missions), then the C-295 will do it all cheaply and reliably.

    I may seem down on the C-27J, but I’m not. I hope it wins. I see the RAAF transport fleet as needing to be equipped for the 5% of missions above. Any leased aircraft can do the other 95%, but it is the 5% that you need in an emergency/combat and which civil aircraft cannot do. I just think that we should be informed of the costs/realities involved.

  • Flight deck


    Dane is right. European kit like the Tiger and MRH90 and now the MRTT just don’t deliver. The manufacturers promise the world then hold the Aussie taxpayer to ransom.
    Here’s hoping the C-27 gets the nod. Tomorrow if possible.

  • Brett


    Unlike the Tiger, MRH90 and MRTT the C295 is well and truly proven and in no way developmental. It is already in service with 12 air forces worldwide and has achieved availability rates exceeding 95% on operations in Afghanistan with Polish and Spanish forces. All this de-risks acquisition for Australia significantly.

    The Caribou replacement requirement essentially calls for a flying ute; an aircraft smaller and more economical than the C-130 to do the donkey work of hauling unglamorous loads (troops, pallets, bits and pieces) into both prepared and unprepared strips. Whilst the C-27J is more powerful and can carry certain Army vehicles it can only achive this one vehicle at a time, calling into question the tactical credibility of doing so. In fact, the C295 wins out by a big margin when it comes to the number of troops and pallets that can be transported as standard.

    Acquisition of major platforms for the ADF has always been a compromise between capability, cost and risk, and on paper at least the C295 appears to be meet 95% of the capability requirements but at 30% less cost than its competitor. Not surprisingly, the RAAF wants the gold-plated solution (C-27J). It will be interesting to see if the Government is willing to shell out the extra dollars up front and over life-of-type to pay for it.

  • ALkebab


    The CASA 235 and 295 are proven airframes that exist around the world in good numbers. The C-27 has not been taken up in worthwhile numbers by the US or anyone else, so it will become an expensive orphan after the massive US defence cuts next year.

    Better to just buy more Hercs or the 235 in my opinion. The C-27 can’t really go into the battlefield further than a Herc anyway.

    The KC-30 is a success, albeit a hard road to get there. The USAF don’t have a new Boeing tanker in sight before at least 2017….19….20, and so they ride the high risk of operating 400 ancient 60 year old jets until then. Had they gone for the KC-30 they would have arrived at the project just after all the expense and effort had been done by the RAAF and got a good product well on time.

    The RAAF is currently the most potent, pound for pound air force in the world.

  • Fabrice


    Sure JSF, Commanche, wedgetail and KC 767 (ask the Japanese and the Italians) are/have been flawless programs. ..(or maybe not).. I guess pub talks should stay in pubs and looking down on European programs and defence forces using them successfully in operations does not bring anything. Which ones ?… Tiger in Afghanistan and Libya with supposedly non performing helmets and unflyable at night !!!! French Army Aviation has been operating successfully for the last 2 years in “hot and high”, pitch black night this wonderful machine in Afghanistan and from ships in Libya. In addition combat SAR EC725 are demonstrating daily there superiority over the UH60. France has much more troops and assets permanently deployed in “hot” areas (I was part of one them 25 years ago, as I am from a family of a long military tradition including one of my ancester who fought as a simple soldier during the US independence war supported by the French ) than Australia… who would think that the French chief of army would agree to fight with unsuitable equipment. France and French people value their warfighters as much as the Australians in addition to pay a huge respect for the Australians heroes who fought and keep on fighting. In Europe I never heard in my life any negative about Australian servicemen and I had the disappointment not to experience the same going the other way. For the same people who are reluctant in reading military history books (try, there are some very good ones from Australian writers) just check the flying hours in hostile environment of the C295 and of the C27J with the associated reliability and operational availability. You might be surprised !

  • Andrew McLaughlin


    Fabrice makes a great point and cites valid examples.

    The Europeans certainly don’t have a mortgage on delayed programs and it is unfair to paint them all with the same brush. Many of their products including C235/295 and French Tiger are proving themselves day in and day out in Afghanistan with great availability rates, and it has been said that the delays to the ARH’s night fighting capability being fielded are more political than technical. The ANG’s C-27J has only been in theatre for a few months and in small numbers, so it is too early to compare, although Italy and Lithuania’s C-27Js have performed well.

    Back to the BFA, both the C-27J and C295 would be worthy successors to the Caribou, and the acquisition costs differences are vast. The STOL mission is all but gone, so it will probably all come down to what the ADF wants to carry and how far/deep. I have a feeling the US budget issues may also play a role, especially if the ANG C-27J order gets cut from 38 to as few as 12 as has been put forward.



  • Gerardo Señoráns Barcala


    The C295 is cheaper than the C-27J as tactical transport aircraft

    The C295 offers the best value for users, with lower acquisition and direct operating costs than any other aircraft in its category. The C295 is cheaper to purchase, maintain and operate than the C-27J. The C-27J’s fuel and maintenance needs give it operational costs that are over 60% more expensive than the C295’s.

    The Spartan burnt much more fuel per hour than the C295 (as much as 60 per cent more), which meant the C295 could save as much as $300 million on fuel over the 30-year lifespan of a 10-aircraft fleet.

    A greater endurance of 12 hours allows the aircrew to remain on-scene longer, collect more information, support other assets, and track targets for longer periods of time.

    The C295 has more modern aerodynamics and non-hydraulic flight controls than the C-27J Spartan.
    The Airbus CN-235MSP (HC-144A’s MSP) like the C295MPA is approximately 90 percent similar to the systems found on the HC-130H and HC-130J Long Range Surveillance aircraft, enabling commonality in training and operation.
    Beyond these facts, the superior multi-role C295 is proven in:

    – Troop / paratrooper transport

    – Cargo (pallets / equipment)

    – Medical evacuation

    – SAR

    – Maritime patrol

    – Passengers

    The C295 multi-functionality makes it the superior choice as intratheater transport aircraft.
    No other tactical airlifter in its category can claim its clear advantages and versatility.

    Gerardo Señoráns Barcala
    International Relations – Defense Consultant

  • Gerardo Señoráns Barcala


    What is about the system prize and the maintenance costs in general between this both types?
    General: The history shows, that the G-222 / C/27 Spartan had difficulties. It is a high manitnance aircraft. All users had enormous problems to keep them in service. I remember to hear that the C-27 is the ideal transport aircraft for airshows, but not for the real tasks.
    Important: The USAF had bought some C-27/G-222 in the eighties, and they were mothballed, because of diverse and huge technical problems. The same occurs in other air forces.

    Note: The Airbus CN-235MSP (HC-144A’s MSP) like the C295MPA is approximately 90 percent similar to the systems found on the HC-130H and HC-130J Long Range Surveillance aircraft, enabling commonality in training and operation.

    The C295 is the only two-engine aircraft in its class that can carry five pallets, providing additional flexibility for intra-theater lift, with a cargo cabin that is the largest of any medium-sized military transport. The C295 can hold a “Hummer” wheeled vehicle with free space to spare. Since C295 has a longer fuselage it can carry more cargo pallets than the C-27J. C295 comes with a nifty pallet loading system, and is cheaper to maintain and fly.

    Gerardo Señoráns Barcala
    International Relations – Defense Consultant

Leave a Comment to Gerardo Señoráns Barcala Cancel

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Each day, our subscribers are more informed with the right information.

SIGN UP to the Australian Aviation magazine for high-quality news and features for just $99.95 per year

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.