C-27J to JFK

Hmmm.
We’ve written the frustrating saga of the USAF knife in the back of the (originally) Army program to buy the C-27J light transport.

After successfully commandeering the program, the USAF quickly turned around and killed it, even as brand spanking new airframes are still rolling off the production line in Italy.  These planes are being delivered directly to storage at Davis-Monthan AFB where they’ll join the rest of the fleet in long term storage.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6c/C27_SPartan_making_condensation_spirals.jpg

Or will they?

Defense Industry Daily says that Special Operations Command (SOCOM) wants seven Spartans to replace their current fleet of CASA C.212 aircraft for training purposes.

SOCOM is a joint command, albeit very heavily biased toward the Army. In essence they’re their own separate armed force, with their own budget authority, and a history of noted disdain to parochial games, even while excelling at them.

Alenia C-27J Spartan aircraft picture

The Coast Guard has already stated they’d love to have  the entire production run of C-27Js to convert them to medium range maritime patrol aircraft.* But a quirk of US law says the Air Force can’t give them to the USCG ( part of DHS) unless there are no military takers for them. Obviously, SOCOM, as a DoD entity, would have first call on the Spartans. And so, it’s highly likely the John F. Kennedy Center and School will add 7 Spartans to its fleet.

Now, SOCOM says the C-27Js would be for training. And I’m sure they would be. But unlike the aircraft already in the SOCOM fleet, the Spartans are combat ready aircraft with radar and missile warning systems, and chaff and IR flare dispensers. It would not be terribly surprising if some “training” aircraft found themselves in “exigent” circumstances deployed to support “urgent” operational needs, in effect giving SOCOM its own tactical transport fleet, and reducing the reliance on USAF and TRANSCOM for airlift.

That’s pure speculation on our part. What say you?

*Even as the USCG is buying another foreign built twin engine turbo-prop for the role, the HC-144 Ocean Sentry based on the EADS CN-235.

C-27Js to mothballs

Well, we knew the Air Force’s primary aim in involving themselves in the C-27J Spartan airlifter program was to deny the Army any fixed wing intra-theater air. And they’ve succeeded.

But of course, that’s only after they’d signed a $2bn or so contract for the airplanes. And since they’ve been bought, they’re being delivered. But since the Air Force won’t operate them, they’re putting brand spanking new airframes into storage at Davis-Monthan.

The Pentagon is sending $50 million cargo planes straight from the assembly line to mothballs because it has no use for them, yet it still hasn’t stopped ordering the aircraft, according to a report.

A dozen nearly new Italian-built C-27J Spartans have been shipped to an Air Force facility in Arizona dubbed “the boneyard,” and five more currently under construction are likely headed for the same fate, according to an investigation by the Dayton Daily News.  The Air Force has spent $567 million on 21 of the planes since 2007, according to purchasing officials at Dayton’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Of those, 16 have been delivered – with almost all sent directly to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, where some 4,400 aircraft and 13 aerospace vehicles, with a total value of more than $35 billion, sit unused.

The C-27J has the unique capability of taking off and landing on crude runways, Ethan Rosenkranz, national security analyst at the Project on Government Oversight, told the newspaper. But with sequestration dictating Pentagon cuts, the planes were deemed a luxury it couldn’t afford.

C27J.jpg

At this point, it’s too far gone for the Army to find the troop strength and aviator numbers to field the force.  And the Air Force almost certainly can’t sell them to private users or foreign governments, because the manufacturer, Alenia Aermacchi, has stated publicly they will boycott spares and support to anyone who buys these airframes. They don’t want the potential markets to buy used what they could be building new.

So most likely, other, non-DoD departments of the government will end up with them. Already there’s word the Coast Guard and the Forest Service will end up with some, and I heard today one in State Department markings has been spotted.

But the Army still doesn’t have the airlift it needed, and still needs, when it first selected the Spartan almost a decade ago.