The US Air Force's C-27 Spartan, nicknamed Chuck, is modified from the G222 airframe manufactured in Naples, Italy, by Alenia, SpA. Chrysler Technologies Airborne Systems, Inc., as prime contractor, procured G222-710 aircraft from Alenia, and modified those aircraft by installing upgraded navigation, communication, and mission systems required for C-27A operation.
The C-27A Spartan is a twin turboprop engine aircraft designed to meet an Air Force requirement for a rugged, medium size airland transport. The Spartan, which looked like a toned-down, twin engine version of the C-130, gave US military troops a unique, short-take-off-and-landing capability, providing access to airstrips otherwise unreachable by fixed-wing aircraft.
The C-27 can carry up to 18,000 pounds of fuel and cargo and can fly farther than cargo helicopters. Much like its big brother, the C-130 Hercules, the C-27 also has the unique ability to land and take-off on extremely small (less than 3,000 feet) undeveloped strips of land. These advantages made the C-27 a key player in delivering food, water and other supplies to remote areas that other airplanes and helicopters can not get to.
The aircraft was particularly suited for short-to-medium range tactical operations into semi-prepared airfields as short as 1,800 feet. The C-27A is an all-weather, day/night transport with capabilities to perform medical evacuation missions. It can carry 24 litters and four medical attendants, or 34 ground troops. The Spartan has a cargo capacity of more than 2,000 cubic feet, or 12,000 pounds. The C-27A operates with a three person crew of aircraft commander, copilot and loadmaster.
The C-27 Spartan, in the Air Force inventory since 1990, has played an integral part in other Southern Command missions as well. Missions such as counter-drug operations and peacekeeping missions kept the C-27 busy during its tenure with SOUTHCOM. One of the C-27's main missions in the late 1990s was MOMEP (Military Observation Mission Ecuador Peru). MOMEP was a peacekeeping mission to help settle a border dispute between Ecuador and Peru. The airstrip utilized for MOMEP operations was only capable of handling C-27s.
Despite the C-27's accomplishments, the Air Force retired its inventory of Spartans in 1999 for financial reasons. Parts and maintenance costs were the leading reasons for the program's cancellation. The final seven C-27A Spartans were flown from Panama to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center in January 1999. The event marked both the end of an era in Panama and the first sign of the impending closure of Howard AFB in accordance with the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977.
The C-27 returned to the US military scene in 2005 with the issuing of requirements for the US Army's proposed Future Cargo Aircraft (FCA) program. An updated variant of the C-27, dubbed C-27J by the manufacturers (in references to the leveraged technology from the C-130J program), was entered for consideration against the EADS C-295. The FCA program was poised to select the C-27J during 2005, but delays in selection came after the Department of Defense proposed merging the FCA program with the similar Light Cargo Aircraft program being conducted by the US Air Force.
The merger of the programs was completed in March 2006, becoming the Joint Cargo Aircraft program. The JCA program announced in June of 2007 the decision to select the C-27J as the winner of the competition. The team of Raytheon and EADS, who submitted a proposal based on the C-295 (as in their proposal to the FCA program), filed a formal protest against the selection process in the same month. The protest was resolved, with no affect on the aircraft selection, pushing back JCA procurement by 3 months according to program officials.
The delivery date for the first aircraft was planned for September 2008. The system was scheduled to undergo initial operational test and evaluation from September to November 2009 and its initial operational capability was planned for February 2010. Program officials reported to the Government Accountability Office for a 2008 assessment that the production maturity was at a high level because the aircraft was commercially available, and production lines already established.
Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi signed a new order 23 September 2015 for two C-27J tactical airlifters by an Air Force of the African continent. The contract also envisages a logistic support package. The two aircraft would be delivered starting from 2017 and will be used for the transport of troops and materials and for homeland security and civil protection operating also on semi-prepared strips. The C-27J had already proved its capability of operating under the most complex conditions for an airplane of its category during the many operating cycles in Afghanistan with three air forces (Lithuania, Italy and the United States) and in the Sub-Sahara with Chad. After those of Morocco and Chad, this was the third order on the African continent confirming that the C-27J is the optimal choice for those air forces that have highly complex requirements and operate in harsh environments; given the aircraft’s robustness, maneuverability on ground and in flight, load capacity and ability to operate on any type of surface, even with very high temperatures. The C-27J had also been ordered by the Air Forces of Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania, Morocco, U.S., Mexico, Australia, Chad, Peru and Slovak Republic, for a total of 82 aircraft to date. A total of 67 C-27J had been delivered so far.
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