2014 – Coast Guard Acquires C-27J Aircraft
The Coast Guard acquired through an intra-service transfer, 14 C-27J Spartans that the U.S. Air Force planned to place in storage. The aircraft was manufactured by Leonardo’s Aircraft Division (formerly Alenia Aermacchi until 2016). The transfer was authorized in the fiscal year 2014 defense authorization bill. As part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, FY 2014, the USCG took possession of 14 C-27J “Spartan” medium range cargo aircraft from the United States Air Force (USAF). Seven of the 21 aircraft that have been built were transferred to the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and 14 aircraft were allocated to the USCG. Thirteen of the aircraft were inducted into the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona in a preserved status and the fourteenth remained at the L-3 Production Facility in Waco, TX.
The U.S Army had identified the need to replace its small aging C-23 Sherpa fleet. The C-23s performance was marginal in the hot high terrain of Southwest Asia. In lieu of adequate fixed wing airlift availability, the Army used its CH-47 helicopter fleet to transport supplies to the forward operating area. This was costly and placed a very high stress on the CH-47 fleet. The USAF had been making extensive use of intra-theater transports in order to reduce the number of road supply convoys. It was recognized that augmentation of the C-130 fleet with an aircraft capable of operating into very short marginal landing strips with adequate supply capability was desirable. The U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force established a Joint Cargo Aircraft competition for an aircraft that would provide “Direct Support” capability.
Initially Alenia and Lockheed Martin worked together to upgrade Alenia’s G.222 for bid entry into the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force Joint Cargo Aircraft competition. The design was changed to use the C-130J Rolls-Royce AE 2100 engine and a six bladed propeller. Other design changes were the C-130J glass cockpit, the fully digital 1553 systems and avionics architecture, and the cargo compartment was updated to increase commonality. The aircraft was given a military designation of C-27J.
The contract was awarded to Alenia 22 June 2007. At this time the U.S. Army had a requirement of 75 aircraft and the U.S. Air Force70. The first C-27J was delivered on 25 September and the aircraft training facility located at the Georgia Army National Guard Flight Facility, Robbins AFB began operation. Two more C-27Js were received by the Army in the spring of 2009 and 11 more were on order. At this point the joint operation ceased to exist. The DOD directed the U.S. Army/Army National Guard to relinquish all of its aircraft to the U.S. Air Force, primarily the Air National Guard, with a reduction in total buy to 38. Total control was vested in the Air Force in December 2009.
The Air Force plan was for the C-27J to be operated by the Air National Guard for direct support of the U.S. Army. Four C-27Js were received by Guard units by July of 2010 and the first combat operations began in August of 2011. Under Army tactical control the operation s proved to be very successful. In 2012 the DOD announced plans to remove all 38 C-27Js on order based on operating costs and excessive intratheater airlift. The C-27 duties were to be taken over by Air Force C-130s. This met with fierce opposition of the Air National Guard. The operating cost figure provided by the Air Force was disputed by the Air National Guard.
Both the CASA CN235 (HC-144) and the C-27J were evaluated as Medium Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft under the Coast Guard Aviation Transformation plan. Both aircraft were superior in required performance compared to the HU-25. The C27 is a larger aircraft than the C-144. It has better operational capabilities; payload, speed and radius of action. The C-144 had an estimated 58% lower Initial Non-recurring Cost (aircraft, mission systems, simulators and ground support equipment). The operating expense of the C-144 was estimated at 16% lower. The C-144A was selected as the Medium Range Maritime Patrol aircraft by ICGS.
In March of 2012 the U.S. Coast Guard began did an evaluation as to the feasibility of taking over the existing C-27J aircraft from the U.S. Air Force. In early 2013 the Air Force completely shut down the C-27J program and began the decommissioning and storage of the existing aircraft. The Coast Guard wanted all 21 of the C-27Js, The U.S Special Operations Command wanted seven and the U.S. Forest Service wanted seven for use as aerial tankers. In October of 2013 the DOD assigned seven C-27Js to the Special Operations Command.
The Coast Guard, Forest Service, and the Air Force worked out an arrangement whereby 14 C-27Js would go to the Coast Guard. Seven Coast Guard C-130H aircraft scheduled for wing box replacement and depot maintenance would go to the Forest Service. The wingbox replacement and the conversion to tanker configuration would be done by the Air Force at no cost to the Coast Guard or the Forest Service. A joint Coast Guard and Frrest Service program office provided logistics, operations, training, maintenance, and support for the HC-130 aircraft. The Coast Guard expects to be fully operational with the C-27J in fiscal year 2016, noting that the delay is due to the need to set up a training and maintenance programs.
Coast Guard Commandant ADM Robert J. Papp stated that the no cost transfer of the14 new C-27Js would save the Coast Guard about a half a billion dollars in life cycle costs. With the aircraft acquisition cost removed from the Initial Non Recurring Cost; the advantage the C-144 enjoyed disappears. The Coast Guard has purchased 18 HC-144s and it is expected to end the program at 18 aircraft with the acquisition of the C-27Js. A sensor package similar to the HC-144 and C-130s will be installed. The C27J uses the same engines and propellers as the C-130J. There were six C-130 Js on board as of the end of 2013 and there are three more on order. It is expected that acquisition of the C-130J will continue incrementally with each budget cycle.
Air Station Sacramento reached initial operational capability for C-27Js when it received the fourth of its six planned Spartans July 1, 2016. Eleven aircraft have completed the regeneration process and are stationed at the APO or in Sacramento; all aircraft are scheduled to complete the regeneration process by 2018.
|Wing Span||94.16 ft|
|Length||74. 74.48 ft|
|Takeoff Weight||67,241 lbs|
|Max Payload||22,000 lbs|
|Engine||Rolls Royce AE 2100-D2|
|Engine Power||4637 shp|
|Propeller||Dowty R-391 six-blade|
|Maximum Service Ceiling||30,000 ft|
|Tactical Cruise Speed||303 Kts|
|Radius of Action||1400 Nautical Miles|