Light Cargo Aircraft (LCA)
The Army's Future Cargo Aircraft was intended to replace the aging Sherpa fleet and improve battlefield troop support. The Air Force Light Cargo Aircraft (LCA) would substitute for C-130s for smalller missions. Under the services joint plan, the Army would start with an initial order for 33 planes, with up to 100 more aircraft later. The Air Force would have input on the choice, and would buy at least 100 in later years. The L-3 C-27J bid was heavier, had more powerful engine (the same as the C-130J). The Raytheon-EADS C-295 had lower fuel costs and larger cargo hold.
In the summer of 2005 senior Air Force officials began discussing a new service requirement for a Light Cargo Aircraft. This small airlifter could take off from and land on short airfields, with a few pallets of cargo and up to 20 individuals. This Air Force program emerged after the Army sought industry input on a replacment for the aging C-23 Sherpa fleet.
Air Force officials said the LCA would be a different plane than the Army's Future Cargo Aircraft. But in August 2005, General John Jumper, then Air Force chief of staff, summed up his feelings regarding the Army's Future Cargo Aircraft during a roundtable discussion with reporters by stating, "My thought on that is you don't need to go out and buy yourself an Air Force - we've got one." The January 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review called for establish a joint program office for a new intra-theater LCA for future expeditionary needs.
The Army and the Air Force worked on the procurement of a capability that clearly existed in both the Army and the Air Force to provide a LCA that had essentially the same kind of capabilities as a C-130, but could operate more efficiently, more economically and can carry a slightly smaller load with a modern airplane. Some had suggested establishing joint light cargo airplanes that had both airplanes from the Army National Guard purchased by the Army and Air National Guard airplanes purchased by the Air Force, set up in a joint LCA units.
If the theater happened to be the United States, it might be moving capabilities, people, equipment or commodities that would be necessary for either homeland defense or homeland security within the continental United States or within the 50 states and the four territories, but overseas, it would be used to move commodities from basically where the large aircraft would bring it transcontinental or globally, move it from the States or some long distance into theater and then it would be broken down into more manageable packages, and then it would be pushed forward to the troops on the ground whether they were airmen forward deployed in an expeditionary site, or soldiers deployed or marines deployed in an expeditionary forward position. It would not be possible to bring in large aircraft in the absence of the large improved runways and the support systems that were necessary. This LCA was said to become extremely useful to providing a logistics bridge from essentially the wholesale level to the foxhole.
The Air Force wanted to consider the findings of a Pentagon intratheater report along with those of the Air Mobility Study on strategic airlift. The service was considering aircraft that could do some of the missions. The U-28A was a militarized version of the Pilatus PC-12, used by the 319th Special Operations Squadron for small intratheater runs. The the AMC-X was a concept aircraft that could carry up to 100 paratroopers, while needing only 2,000 feet to land.
In late 2005, the Department of Defense directed the Army's "Future Cargo Aircraft" program and the Air Force's "Light Cargo Aircraft" program be merged into the single "Joint Cargo Aircraft" program. In March 2005, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council approved the Army's Initial Capabilities Document. That document identified the Army's capability gap in organic airlift. The JCA Request for Proposals was released 17 March 2006 after the Acquisition Strategy Report was signed that morning.
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