In one of his last official duties before stepping down as Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Geoff Brown has welcomed the arrival of the RAAF’s first Alenia Aermacchi C-27J Spartan in Australia.
AIRMSHL Brown, whose term as Chief of Air Force ends on Friday, said the C-27J would provide a great replacement for the Caribou, which was retired in 2009.
“It gives us excellent tactical lift and allows us to provide support and sustainment to our land forces across the entire spectrum of operations,” AIRMSHL Brown told guests during the arrival ceremony at RAAF Base Richmond on Tuesday.
“This is a formidable aircraft and Australia got it right when we chose it to fill the gap left by the Caribou.”
AIRMSHL Brown, who described the arrival of a new aircraft type as a cause for celebration and satisfaction, noted the C-27J was able to operate from 1,900 airfields around Australia and strengthened the Australian Defence Force’s airlift capability by increasing its ability to move troops, equipment and supplies.
The first C-27J, A34-001, arrived at RAAF Richmond from prime contractor L-3 Com’s Waco, Texas facility last Thursday.
The delivery flight took nine days as the aircraft made stops in Seattle, Alaska (twice), Japan, Guam, Papua New Guinea and Townsville before touching down in Richmond.
Australia has ordered 10 C-27Js, which will be based at Richmond while facilities at their permanent home at RAAF Base Amberley are built.
The fleet will be operated by 35 Squadron, with initial operational capability (IOC) scheduled for 2016. Final operational capability (FOC) is 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.
“It is good to be able to hub all the aeroplanes in the one spot up at Amberley,” AIRMSHL Brown told reporters at the conclusion of the official speeches.
“That is pretty much our plan. It gives us good reach to the rest of Australia from Amberley as well.”
On the future for Richmond, AIRMSHL Brown said: “I think the amount of infrastructure we have got here at Richmond, Richmond will be here as long as we have got the C-130Js.”
Training for the airlifter began in December 2014 when the first RAAF technicians arrived in Waco with aircrews joining their colleagues in Texas in early 2015.
The C-27J, powered by two Rolls-Royce AE2100-D2A turboprops, is currently in operation with the Italian Air Force, and is entering service with the US Coast Guard and US Special Operations Command (after the US Air Force cancelled its acquisition of the aircraft on cost-cutting grounds).
Aside from Australia, the US and Italy, Alenia has also received orders from the likes of Greece, Romania, Morocco, Peru and Slovakia for a total of 80 C-27Js.
Alenia Aermacchi head of military program management Luca Napolitano and L-3 president of aircraft systems Bruce Trego were also part of the official arrival ceremony of the battlefield airlifter, which was held on the 90th anniversary of RAAF Base Richmond.
Trego said Airbus Group Australia Pacific would provide in-country support for the C-27J and ensure a seamless support transition once the aircraft entered service.