Final RAAF C-27J Spartan arrives

written by australianaviation.com.au | April 18, 2018

A 35SQN C-27J conducts a demonstration short-field landing during the ceremony to commemorate the tenth and final delivery on April 18. (Mark Jessop)

The RAAF has taken delivery of its tenth and final Leonardo/L-3 C-27J Spartan battlefield airlifter.
The delivery was marked with a flying display and ceremony at RAAF Base Richmond on Wednesday, and is the latest milestone for the AIR 8000 Phase 2 program which saw 10 C-27Js ordered in 2012 to replace the capability lost with the retirement of the DHC-4 Caribou in 2009.
The C-27Js were built by Leonardo at its Turin, northern Italy final assembly line, while L-3 in Waco, Texas fitted the aircraft’s ballistic protection, EW/self-protection systems and communications suite.
“The Spartan provides flexibility to Defence operations, allowing us to land at airfields that are smaller or unsuitable for our much larger transport aircraft like the C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster,” Defence Minister Marise Payne said on Wednesday.
“The Spartan can carry up to five tonnes of cargo and is capable of moving troops, equipment and supplies; conducting aero-medical evacuation missions and conducting air drops.”
Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne and 35SQN’s most junior member cut a C-27J-shaped cake at the ceremony. (Andrew McLaughlin)

Following a Foreign Military Sales request issued in late 2011, the C-27J was formally selected for AIR 8000 Phase 2 in May 2012. The first RAAF C-27J subsequently flew in December 2013, and delivery of the first aircraft to the RAAF Richmond-based 35SQN occurred in May 2015.
Since then, the unit has been building its fleet and personnel numbers, and has already conducted operations in Papua New Guinea, and taken part in major exercises in New Caledonia, Guam, New Zealand and in Australia.
A C-27J conducts a demonstration air-drop at the ceremony. (Mark Jessop)

35SQN is due to relocate to RAAF Base Amberley in early 2019, Minister Payne confirmed.
“The relocation to Amberley will allow No. 35 Squadron to work from facilities purpose-built for the Spartan, and to be more responsive when deploying across Australia and into the Asia Pacific,” she said.
Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for the C-27J was achieved in December 2016, while Final Operating Capability (FOC) is now scheduled to be declared in late 2019.
RAAF C-27Js A34-009 and -010. (Mark Jessop)

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40 Comments

  • TwinTiger

    says:

    There is so much to like about this aircraft.
    It incorporates the same propulsion units and advanced avionics as the C-130J Hercules so there is commonality in systems, which must translate into efficiencies for maintenance support, and it fills the small and unsealed airfield support role (military and humanitarian) for the RAAF.
    A great example of sensible decisions that will continue to provide great returns.

  • Raymond

    says:

    Could someone who’s obviously done the required analysis please inform us all that ten C-27Js are clearly insufficient and how many extra the RAAF most certainly requires?

  • SeeSure

    says:

    I agree, great plane and will be useful in peace-time, a few more of these and a few less F-35s and we may have an effective air force.
    Does anyone know the tail number of the C-27J that had a heavy landing in the US?

  • Darrin

    says:

    Great aircraft desion can’t say about the F35A

  • John

    says:

    Order more not enough

  • PETER

    says:

    Saw one of these on static display at Warbirds over Wanaka at easter, wasn’t able to show perform display unfortunately

  • Derrick

    says:

    Such a great little aircraft, hopefully flying for the next 20-30 years.
    Also love the cake!!!

  • Josh James

    says:

    Here’s hoping that they will be mentioned in the same exalted tones as the Caribou they replaced when they take their final bow out of service, hopefully in many years time. I wonder if they’ll order any more?

  • Craig

    says:

    A shame it’s not a full squadron of 12.

  • Mzungu

    says:

    Well, it actually still requires separate supply chains because it’s a bit of a hybrid and doesn’t actually have as much commonality as one might expect from outward appearance. The light tactical transport role is largely filled by civilian contractors in the US Army, and this is not a STOL aircraft, so it will be interesting to see where this fits in the ORBAT here.

  • jasonp

    says:

    Raymond – bit of a loaded question. Why don’t you lay out your analysis (real analysis, not just fantasy air force stuff) to support your conclusion that 10 is “clearly insufficient”?
    10 C-27Js appears to be enough, especially with 10 CH-47Fs, 47 MRH90s, 12 C-130Js, 8 C-17As, and 7 KC-30As. How much more airlift to do you think we need?

  • jasonp

    says:

    Mzungu – judging by TV vision from yesterday’s event it clearly appears to be a STOL aircraft, and it can sure carry a lot more into a short strip than a Caribou. Perhaps not quite as short or soft a strip as a Caribou can land on, but at least 3 times more strips than a C-130 can land on.

  • Paul

    says:

    Ray, I suggest you go to parliament and make an appointment with Def Min Payne and chat with her!!

  • Gary

    says:

    Mzungu – Well the RAAF certainly regard it as a platform possessing STOL capability. A simple search would highlioght this. As to the orphan nature of the C27J, engines are the same as C130J30 with a great deal of avionics also in common with the C130J.

  • PAUL

    says:

    Great little Aircraft & good shot of it mowing the lawns…

  • Bob

    says:

    The ADF is one of the few forces with C-17’s and C-130’s that now has a battlefield airlifter.. One has to wonder why .
    I can’t help but think more CH-47’s and C-130’s would be better than this orphan

  • Bruce

    says:

    Well Bob, To put it into simple terms the CH-47’s does not have the range or speed of the C27J and it can land on many more strips in the Pacific Islands than the C130J can.

  • Kim Tamm

    says:

    Wow these are great looking planes especially when my son flys one over our house??

  • Tom

    says:

    Hub and spoke operations that’s the role of Spartan, not diminishing the role of CH-47F but it’s a different role when moving equipment and troops right onto the battlefield with its ability to sling artillery etc
    We need more of both 10 of either is not enough, I’d go for another 6 C27J 2x vanilla airframes and 4 reconfigurable MC27J for SOCOMD..
    Just like our MRCB under Plan Beersheba each brigade need organic airlift Army Aviation needs increasing 18/24 NH90, 6 CH-47F and 6 ARH per combat brigade Plus SOCOMD with a mix of SeaHawks MH-47G

  • Iain

    says:

    The Spartan were originally ordered by the US Marines but they withdrew which left Australia as the lead in customer. Two other countries also placed orders . I believe that the production line has closed so that is why we only have 10.

  • ngatimozart

    says:

    To those posters who want more C-27J and helos; how are you going to pay for it. Put bluntly what capabilities will you suggest that the RAAF / ADF lose to pay for the extras? Don’t suggest the F-35A because that is going to be a really good platform.

  • AlanH

    says:

    A fitting 21st Century replacement for the venerable Caribou. Well done RAAF! As to whether 10 are sufficient or not, few of us are technically capable of making such decisions, but plenty of research and assessment would have gone on in the Dept of Defence before the final number was locked in. Such purchases are not arbitrary decisions made by the toss of a coin by governments of any persuasion. Ongoing support and maintenance costs are also a significant factor in the whole equation.

  • Raymond

    says:

    jasonp & Paul – please re-read my comment… it was pure sarcasm! I was pre-empting the comments to follow. 5 thus far already…

  • Paul

    says:

    Raymond, I love reading your posts carefully, and Thankyou for the sarcasm ? Mine was sarcastic too.. ngatimozart, that’s very easy to work out mate. Take another 10% out of welfare, another 200 JSFs, fully upgraded B-1s. I could keep going but the sound of another 200 35s will have Raymond swinging from tree top to tree top?

  • ct

    says:

    The history of this aircraft is interesting.
    Lockeed wanted in obviously as there was a gap between what the Italians offered and their c130.
    So they twisted the Italian’s arms and said, use part of our avionics and engines.
    Then they dissolved their joint venture to bid for themsleves for the joint procurement (US) cargo aircraft.
    In the end a few US companies bought into the JV such as Boeing, before Raytheon took over the C27 contract.
    So the US is pot calling kettle black when it comes to ‘assimilating’ foreign tech.

  • Tom

    says:

    @Ngatimozart
    Defence has been underfunded now for some time under aunty Helen in disguise (Gillard) its only now slowly getting back to where it was. But it’s not there yet, the ADF of old supported a much larger force of tactical transports that role has not demiished just because we now have strategic lift via C17 and it’s certainly not the panacea to all our requirements. Yes they have addressed the shortfall in capabilty but haven’t rebuilt it totally. AU/NZ have recently had a shock to the system in the recent possibility of red China playing in our sphere of influence a combination of soft and hard power, it’s aircraft like C27J that’s going to have the biggest impact in the our area of responsabilty
    As for helicopters we are moving to a force of Multi Role Combat Brigades and overtime are expected to have mirror capabilty then what we have now an adhoc system of pulling a task force from wherever, you train as you fight.
    Currently we have 40 MRH-90’s I believe 20 operational Blackhawks, 10 CH-47F. As a guide 18 aircraft will give 12 on the flight line 6x MRH-90 will give you a company lift or 18 aircraft per battalion lift by giving each MRCB organic rotary each will brigade will train and fight as one a maximum of 24x Taipans will meet the needs for maintenance and tasking for training in all aspects of the reset/readying/ deploy phase of each brigade.
    The minimum aircraft is 18 the maximum is 24, 24×3=72 or an additional 30 aircraft. CH-47 number should rise to 18 ARH is 18 also. At the moment we have a max effort of 2x battalion lift effort. We have the capabilty to move the brigade and all it’s equipment via RAN amphib assets but we have insufficient aircraft for attrition and concurrent deployments and training requirements, I’m not saying we have to buy these tomorrow but if we want to really have a true capabilty that can sustain the talk from governments it’s a matter of put up or shut up

  • Bob

    says:

    @ Bruce – So the C-27’s was bought more for military aid to the community rather than for a pure military function. I guess that is the same as the LHD’s .
    @ Tom – I understand that, But my point is still what other first world air forces are doing hub and spoke with 3 different airlifters? I can’t think of any.
    I get C-27’s useful for civil aid in PNG/SWPA.. But it’s a pretty expensive platform for that role

  • PAUL

    says:

    Production line closed? that’s a shame…. I hope one doesn’t catch fire like a Growler recently did. Also this aircraft would be a good replacement for the RNZAF Kingairs, which really weren’t a full replacement for the 10 Andovers that were in service.

  • jasonp

    says:

    Raymond – sarcasm doesn’t come across well when reading, especially when you don’t know the poster.
    Iain – The C-27J was ordered by the USAF ANG, not the Marines. Those aircraft are now operated by the US Army SOCOM and Coast Guard, plus a dozen or so other countries operates or has ordered them. Production is still open.
    ct – not quite how it happened, The C-27J was originally picked for the JCA and about 30 were built before politics got in the way and the USAF and ANG bought more C=130Js instead. Raytheon has nothing to do with JCA, L-3 is the prime and the systems integrator.

  • Daryl

    says:

    The US military didn’t like this aircraft a great deal.They gifted the few they had (almost new) to the Afghans.They in turn struggled to keep them airworthy,and a couple of years later ,they were sold to a scrap dealer in Kabul.

  • Gary

    says:

    Daryl – I think you might find that Afghanistan received C27As not C27Js. Whilst the same airframe, the C27A was really just a remarketed G222. The J had new engines and a glass cokpit.

  • Mick c

    says:

    Guys, Australia’s Military requirements are unique to Australia, the only Country that even remotely comes close is Canada in that you have a large land area much of it remote and lightly populated.. Just because nobody else does it is not a reason not to do it, we are not Sheep.
    The main role of the C-27 will be Army cooperation and using a Herc to carry 5-7 ton loads into remote Airstrips is a poor use of an Aircraft that can carry up to 18 tons.
    The C-27 will give the ADF a much greater flexibility and the fact that it can land on about 3 times more Airstrips than a Herc can is a major plus and is a lot cheaper to operate as well.

  • jasonp

    says:

    Daryl – the C-27s they gifted to Afghanistan were 25 year old A models (G.222) which had already been thrashed on ops in Central and South America. Do some reading before posting…

  • Tom

    says:

    @Dayrl
    It was the USAF that killed off Spartan which was a joint cargo aircraft program for US Army & USAF, from what I can determine that USAF didn’t want it to compete with funding for USAF tactical lift which would have made US Army more independant from USAF it was more of a budget protection from USAF

  • Mick c

    says:

    Also the C-27J is not an orphan it is also used by Bulgaria, Chad, Greece, Lithuania, Morocco, Mexico, Peru, Romania, USCG, Zambia and of course the Country that originally developed the G-222, Italy.

  • Tim

    says:

    We should seriously look at making MC-27J modifications to some of them like the Italian Air Force. Being able to fit or remove a 30mm gun and Hellfires quickly would be very useful.

  • Raymond

    says:

    Paul – no, 300 F-35s would be too many. No, not the B-1… some B-21s instead please…

  • Mick C

    says:

    Raymond I would suspect the B-21 will join the F-22 on the never to be exported list and at 500 Million $US each how many could we afford.
    Way out of our reach both financially and Politically, doubtful it would get past Congress.

  • Robert

    says:

    I think when some people put an orphan tag to the C27J they are just high lighting that it got dropped as the JCA for the US and since then it has struggled to pick up sales, I gather since the Australian order for 10 they have sold a something like 3 more,
    I think Australia picked the C27J on the fact it could move certain size items so the choice was sound for them but other forces are opting for the C295 as granted it has a smaller cabin in cross section but has greater floor area, C295 carries 5 pallets, C27J carries 3, This means that when you are carrying pax and general freight you can carry more in the 295 which has a fuel burn of 1250 lbs per hour as opposed to 2200 to 2800 lb an hour for the C27. Basically you can carry 20 percent more pax in a c295 at about 60 percent of the operating cost. This may explain why C27J sales have stagnated at 85 delivered and the 295 have 163 delivered with the order book at 206.
    As I mentioned Australia had sound reasons for its choice but there is a cost associated both in operating cost and being an operator of a smallish production run platform which may be a hassle later in the service life

  • Raymond

    says:

    Mick C – I know, but no harm in trying… You never know! 😉

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