C-27J SPARTAN to achieve Australian military certification to undertake more operational roles
The Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) new C-27J SPARTAN transport aircraft is set to achieve Australian military certification that will allow the planes to undertake more operational roles. It is expected to complete certification this year that will allow the C-27J fleet to participate in all missions apart from some high-end warfighting roles, but that is also expected to be competed shortly after in 2020.
An RAAF spokesperson told MON that the aircraft are currently allowed to perform humanitarian and disaster relief missions, logistics support and air medical evacuation and these roles have been tested on exercises. He added that the Initial Operating Capability (IOC) was achieved in 2016 and that the RAAF’s intention is that C-27J Full Operating Capability (FOC) is expected in December 2019.
The spokesperson said that a fully laden C-27J still weighs less than an empty C-130J and that in Australia there are 1,300 air strips that C-27J can land on, but the C-130 can only use 300. The aircraft have already been used for flood relief operations in Queensland and for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconaissance and air drop missions. The intention is to add a SATCOM capability similar to the C-130 and C-17 to allow data sharing over the network.
Manufactured by Leonardo, C-27J was selected ahead of the Airbus C-295 and the first C-27J was received at RAAF Richmond in 2015 to operate with 35 Squadron and all 10 aircraft were delivered and flying by April 2018. The squadron has recently moved to RAAF Amberly in late-2018 co-locating the aircraft with the C-17 strategic transport aircraft and to be near the Army. About A$300 million has been spent on developing facilities and infrastructure for the C-27J at RAAF Amberly.
There are only 100 C-27J aircraft in-service worldwide therefore the simulation and training capability is limited. Although training the maintainers is done by 35 Sqn for aircrew but said it was a high priority to get the aircrew training system sorted as soon as possible.
The RAAF use the Italian Air Force simulators and conduct simulation training every six months. Aircrew type conversion courses are completed at L-3 at Arlington, Viginia and Waco, Texas. Australian instructors conduct the training and utilise the simulators in Italy for the simulator phase before returning to Australia for flying training. With 10 aircraft there are 12 crews that include more loadmasters (who train at a purpose-built facility at Amberly) but the crew numbers are set to expand as the RAAF ramps up its training capability for the fleet.
The intention is to develop their own simulators and the service running up a tender by the end of 2019 and then take about three years for a bespoke system to be introduced. A project office at RAAF Brindabella Park is running the programme, which is fully funded under Australia’s Integrated Investment Programme (IIP).