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.”
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.
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.