The RAAF will buy 10 Alenia C-27J transports to fulfil the AIR 8000 Phase 2 Battlefield Airlifter (BFA) requirement, Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare have confirmed today.
The announcement – which comes just 36 hours after the 2012-13 federal budget confirmed the RAAF’s eight remaining C-130H Hercules would be retired early as part of Defence’s contribution to government’s plan to return to surplus – has been a long-time coming, with AIR 8000 being active for more than 12 years, and the previous AIR 5190 running for more than a decade before that. The BFA will fill the requirement left vacant by the retirement of the last remaining DHC-4 Caribou tactical transports in December 2009.
“The C-27J was assessed by Defence as the aircraft which best met all the essential capability requirements and provides the best value for money. It was assessed as being able to fly further, faster, higher while carrying more cargo and requiring a smaller runway than the other aircraft under consideration, the Airbus Military C295,” a ministerial statement reads.
The statement also cited RAAF claims that the C-27J can access nearly four times the number of airfields in Australia than the larger C-130J, and double the number of airfields in our wider region, as well as being able to operate into softer or unprepared fields.
The new aircraft will be based at RAAF Richmond west of Sydney with a resurrected 35SQN – which was disbanded in 1999 when Caribou operations were consolidated with 38SQN – under the command of 84WG.
The aircraft and associated spares, training and equipment will cost about $1.4 billion. The first RAAF C-27J is due to be delivered in 2015, and initial operational capability is scheduled for late 2016.
“Initial logistic support, including training for aircrew and maintenance personnel will be provided through the FMS program, utilising the system that has been established in the US,” the ministers’ statement reads. “Defence will seek a separate agreement with the C-27J manufacturer, Alenia, in order to ensure that RAAF can operate, maintain and modify the aircraft throughout its planned life.”
Australia requested pricing for 10 C-27Js through the US FMS process late last year.