After doing some additional reading overnight, I just wanted to clarify yesterday’s opinion post, especially regarding the proposed FMS sale.
With the cancellation of the US’s C-27J program, the RAAF would not have the benefit of being linked into a ‘parent service’ such as the USAF/ANG for software, electronic warfare and other systems upgrades and support. But there are still some compelling benefits of going down an FMS route.
The most important benefit FMS is that the ADF will likely get the same unit price the USAF/ANG was contracted for the original Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) program several years ago, apart from the US government’s negligible FMS fee. The ADF has expressed a clear preference for this route, and has not opened a tender bid process for any alternatives.
Commercial sensitivities preclude industry or Defence insiders from confirming actual numbers or even percentage differences, but AA understands the price being offered through FMS is the same as the original US JCA program of record for 135 C-27Js, even though this number was whittled down to just 38 airframes by the USAF and now looks like being capped at fewer than 25. Compared to a direct commercial sale for 10 aircraft, the FMS route thus offers much greater economies of scale, especially if a suitable support package and upgrade path can be worked out with prime L-3 and OEM Alenia.
In justifying its reasons for cancelling the program, the USAF said the C-27J’s life cost will be more than US$300m per aircraft – compared to about $200m for a C-130J(!). But in the past few days the ANG which operates the C-27J has responded to these cost claims with some much lower figures of its own which drastically undermine the USAF’s case for cancelling the program. It should be interesting to see how this plays out.
In the meantime – we posted a YouTube video on our website a week or so ago showing a PT6 turboprop powered Caribou performing an airdrop in Afghanistan. This and other civil aircraft are being contracted by the US military – to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars – to provide airlift support to coalition troops in Afghanistan … exactly the role for which the JCA C-27J was intended.
As for other types the ADF should consider for AIR 8000 Phase 2; in the current issue of ADBR we talk about Defence saying it also considered the Viking Buffalo (an updated version of the DHC-5 Buffalo which hasn’t flown and has no orders), the RUAG Do228NG, and even Poland’s PZL M28! No mention of a Twin Otter as one of our readers has suggested. No mention of the V-22 either, which would likely be defeated on cost and supportability grounds, even if it arguably most closely meets the requirement.