C-26 is the US military designation for the Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner (subsequently known as Fairchild Aerospace Metro) SA-227 Metro (also referred by the name Metroliner) aircraft, an all-weather, twin-engine, turboprop designed for short-haul passenger and cargo carrying. The airplane can carry a maximum of 13 passengers and 850 pounds of cargo and can be modified to operate in a cargo-only configuration. The Metro is capable of communication on VHF and UHF frequencies, and can navigate using Automated Direction Finder (ADF), VHF Omnidirectional Range (VOR), Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN), or GPS. It is also Instrumented Landing System (ILS) approach capable. The aircraft can fly into smaller fields with runways as short as 5,000 feet, depending on aircraft configuration and atmospheric conditions.
The C-26 aircraft, manufactured by a division of Fairchild Aircraft, is a high performance, fixed wing, pressurized, twin engine turboprop that has accommodations for a pilot and a co-pilot and 19 passengers and/or cargo or a combination of both. The C-26 series are powered by variants of the Garrett TPE331 engine. The TPE331-12URH is rated at 1,100 shaft horsepower (820 kilowatts) takeoff power and 1,000 shaft horsepower (746 kilowatts) maximum continuous power and equipped with 106 inch (269 cm) diameter McCauly full feathering, reversible, constant speed four bladed propellers.
The aircraft, the first of which were delivered to the US military in 1989, represented an on-call, rapid response, modern air transport for high priority resupply and movement of key personnel to remote, unserviced or feeder sites. Specifically, the aircraft could be used to deliver repair parts, equipment, technical teams, crash and accident investigation teams. In its role, such functions as range clearance, Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC), administrative movement of personnel, transportation connections and courier flights could be accomplished. The aircraft had quick change passenger, medevac, or cargo interiors.
C-26s were subsequently operated by the US Air and Army National Guards and the US Navy. The C-26A was the civilian equivalent of the Metro III with the C-26B being equivalent to the Fairchild Metro 23. The C-26B provided time-sensitive movement of personnel and cargo, as well as limited medical evacuation. The National Guard Bureau used modified C-26B (later redesignated as RC-26B) and UC-26C aircraft to support the Air National Guard in drug control operations. These aircraft carried specialized electronic equipment. The sole UC-26C aircraft acquired was a derivative of the Fairchild Merlin IVC.
In the late 1990s, the objective of the Army Aviation Modernization Strategy was to reduce the size of the rotary and fixed wing fleets to 4 aircraft types, each via the Aviation Restructuring Initiative (ARI). ARI was the vehicle by which the Army intended to accomplish the reduction in fleet size and model types while maintaining the vital capabilities of the fleet. As a product of ARI, Army aviation's overall goal relative to the fixed wing fleet was to reduce the current number of models from 21 to 4. These would include a C-XX Short Range (SR) (the mission then performed by U-21, et al), a C-XX Medium Range (MR) (the mission then performed by C-12), a C-20 Long Range (LR) (the mission then performed by C-20 and C-21), and a Multi-Mission Medium Tactical Transport (M3T2) (the mission then performed by the C-23 and C-26).
The C-26 Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) Follow-On Acquisition effort in 1997 focused on providing full CLS for 32 Air National Guard (ANG) and Army National Guard (ARNG) C-26B aircraft and 1 ANG UC-26C aircraft. The C-26 Program Office used acquisition streamlining initiatives to remove all Military Standards and Specifications (MIL STDs/SPECs) from the Request for Proposals (RFP). The RFP Support Office was employed to support the C-26 program. The team also reduced government-mandated Contract Data Requirements Lists (CDRLs) from 22 to 4, and substituted a performance-based Statement of Objectives (SOO) for a Statement of Work (SOW). The requirement was designed to conform to Federal Aviation Administration certifications and standards, creating a high level of interest and competition within the commercial industry. These efforts resulted in program cost avoidance of approximately $33.4 million.
A C-26 Tracker upgrade completed in 2002 included the addition of an APG-66 air-to-air radar (similar to that used in the USAF F-16), a third generation infrared system and related navigation, power and communications equipment to a Colombian Air Force provided C-26 Aircraft. A major portion of the Counterdrug Technology Development Program Office [CDTDPO] C-26 Tracker Upgrade was the government acceptance evaluation of the final deliverable provided by Northrop Grumman/California Microwave Systems (NG/CMS). NG/CMS had been selected using the CECOM/R2CSR contract vehicle.
This evaluation involved a comprehensive review of the APG-66 radar. To reduce the amount of high cost flying hours that might have been required to accomplish this task, NAVAIR Integrated Program Team (IPT) members provided the services of their Air Combat Environment Test and Evaluation Facility (ACETEF). ACETEF's primary mission was to reduce technical risk and cost for Navy aircraft and aircraft systems through the use of simulation and stimulation during installed systems testing. The facility provided a multitude of resources and capabilities which are used for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) and Training in support of the systems development process and systems deployment.
Electronic Combat Stimulation (ECSTIM) supported the test by providing radar stimulation with the Universal Radar Moving Target Transponder (URMTT). The URMTT was a radar simulator used to provide simulation to complex and simple radar systems. It was a portable, open-loop, free-space simulator capable of providing a radar threat to virtually any radar system operating from 8 to 12 gigahertz. It operated 2-way over-the-air and completely unobtrusive to the system under test (SUT). URMTT produces targets that were indistinguishable from a real physical target. At the time of the evaluation, its targets had a maximum range of 420 nautical miles and velocity from 0.3 to 12,000 knots, which could be specified in increments of less than 0.5 knots. All targets had independent RCS, range, velocity, and acceleration.
A Radar Signal Modulator (RSM) was added to the URMTT, which gave it the capability of simulating essentially any air frame/engine radar signature. The combination of URMTT and the RSM gave the complete system the capability of testing and training for non-cooperative target identification on any radar. The objective of this test was to support the verification of the integration of the APG-66 radar system. This test supported contractor operational verification through the evaluation of the APG-66 radar on the ground prior to flight-testing of the system. The verification included determining if the functionality of the APG-66 radar system, which concentrated on max and min ranges, and max and min airspeeds, target acquisition, frequency hopping, and operationally of the various radar channels. After successful, and time saving evaluation, and adjustment of the APG-66 radar the C-26 tracker configuration successful completed the radar evaluation and acceptance. Subsequently all other systems (infrared, communications and navigation) were also evaluated and proved acceptable. The unique and portable nature of the URMTT configuration also allowed it to be used to demonstrate the radar for the C-26 Tracker rollout at Andrews AFB earlier in 2002. The 2 C-26 Tracker were subsequently delivered to the custody of the Department of State Air Bridge Denial (ABD) program. The training for the C-26 Tracker Upgrade systems and the mission was conducted under the ABD program.
On 31 March 2011, the Department of Defense announced that M7 Aerospace, LP of San Antonio, Texas had been awarded a $15,645,556 indefinite-delivery contract for logistics support of 12 Navy/Marines UC-35 aircraft and 7 Navy C-26 aircraft located at 9 global locations. Services to be provided included organizational and depot-level maintenance, parts, support equipment maintenance, and engineering support. Work would be performed in Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, Hawaii (14 percent); Marine Corp Air Station (MCAS), Futenma, Japan (13 percent); Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland (11 percent); Naval Air Station (NAS), New Orleans, Louisiana (10 percent); NAS Sigonella, Italy (10 percent); Naval Support Activity, Naples, Italy (10 percent); San Antonio, Texas (9 percent); MCAS Miramar, California (8 percent); MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina (8 percent); and Al Udeid, Qatar (7 percent). Work was expected to be completed by May 2012. This contract was competitively procured via electronic request for proposal, with 4 offers received. Contract funds would not expire at the end of the fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland was the contracting activity.
On 23 December 2011, the Department of Defense announced that M7 Aerospace, L.P. of San Antonio, Texas had been awarded an $11,791,664 firm-fixed-price contract. The award would provide for the procurement of life cycle contractor support services for the Army fleet of C-26 Metroliner aircraft. Work would be performed in San Antonio, Texas, with an estimated completion date of 31 December 2014. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 2 bids received. The US Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama was the contracting activity.
The C-26 was one of the aircraft planned to be replaced under the Army's Future Cargo Aircraft (FCA) program initiated in the early 2000s. This program was subsequently merged with the Air Force's Light Cargo Aircraft (LCA) program in 2006, which led to the procurement of the C-27J, which was operated by joint Army/Air Force National Guard units. As part of the USAF's FY13 budget proposal and projections out to FY17 released in early 2012, the C-27J was to be divested entirely. The US Army had already planned to extend lifecycle support for their C-26 fleet out until 2014, but there were no plans to acquire a follow-on fixed wing utility aircraft until FY18.
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