Defense Media Network

C-27s Begin Training Program at Home and Operations Abroad

The U. S. Air Force is quietly making progress with its C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) – the newest fixed-wing aircraft in inventory, intended to haul cargoes “the last tactical mile” amid front-line fighting.

Supporters say the C-27J permits airmen to bring supplies and munitions into trouble spots where the larger C-130J Hercules might have difficulty operating. Critics say the larger transport can handle most situations and wonder if the expense of adding a new aircraft type to inventory service is costlier than the waste that accrues when a Hercules operates with less than a full payload.

JCA began as an Army-only project to replace 44 C-23 Sherpas (Shorts 330s) with 78 new, twin-engined airlifters. The USAF took over the

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. James Piel, commander of 538th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron and a pilot-mentor for a C-27 Spartan cargo aircraft, and Afghan National Army 1st Lt. Faiz M. Ramaki fly their first operational mission March 24, 2010, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force photo by SRA Nancy Hooks.

program shortly after the first flight of an American C-27J on June 17, 2008, and the program of record was reduced to 38 airframes. Pilots, loadmasters and maintainers will be airmen, not soldiers, although a joint Air Force-Army team is conducting developmental work. The C-27J training center has not yet been officially named, but the Formal Training Unit (FTU) is expected to be located at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Ga.

A recent decision not to proceed with a planned AC-27J Stinger II gunship version, coupled with the halving of the JCA “buy” means that plans for a Global Military Aircraft Systems (GMAS) assembly plant at Cecil Field, Fla., have been placed on hold. C-27Js being delivered today are built in Turin, Italy. GMAS, a spin-off of the Italian planemaker Alenia, would like to proceed and emphasizes that stationing C-27Js at Air National Guard bases will bring new jobs to many localities.

The team at Robins is currently flying four USAF C-27Js plus a GMAS-owned airframe used for pilot and loadmaster training. Air Force personnel completed a portion of Production Qualification Testing (PQT), focusing on aeromedical evacuation, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., June 8-9, 2010. The tests come ahead of Multi-Service Operational Test and Evaluation (MOT&E) slated for autumn. The MOT&E process evaluates an aircraft in operational conditions. The USAF C-27J fleet passed 1,000 flight hours in June 2010. Ironically, the program is moving even faster overseas where, on June 30, the fledgling Afghan National Army Air Force’s 373rd Fixed Wing Squadron completed its first airdrop mission using a U.S.-supplied and funded C-27.

The C-27J has proven itself in varying degrees in Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Morocco and in the promising Afghan program. The Italian Air Force deployed two C-27Js to Afghanistan in September 2008.

Its two 4,640 shaft horsepower (3460 kW) Rolls-RoyceAE2100-D2A turboprop engines and six-bladed Dowty 391 propellers give the C-27J some commonality with the C-130J, a “plus” when operating costs are measured.


Robert F. Dorr is an author, U.S. Air Force veteran, and retired American diplomat who...

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    Here is an example of why the Airbus should never had been allowed to compete for the tanker competition. When the C-27J program was proposed all the ads, guys at the convention booths (I saw a lot of former US Army and USAF GO’s, not many Italian business men) and political influence that could be thrown at it promised that the planes would be built in the US (FL, home the then Presidents brother and then FL Gov Jeb Bush).

    Now that the quantity has been reduced its not cost effective to build them in the US (it probably never was going to be cost effective to build them here but you can’t say that during the competition for US dollars). So now, while we suffer 9.5% unemployment (I know its worse in Europe, but I don’t care, they work 35 hour weeks and take 6 weeks off with pay and are considered one of the least productive workforces in the world who can only compete on the world stage with huge government support) US Taxpayers are buying Italian airframes and British engines and USAF pilots are flying non US built airplanes in combat.

    Unlike the British Harrier Jump Jet in 1970, there was no technical breakthrough required for the JCA, its the modern version of the DC3, The US airplane market during the 2000-2008 tech boom days (same time the JCA was being competed, cancelled, restarted and protested due to US Military infighting over who owns the rights to buy and fly airplanes, the AF didn’t want the plane or the “last mile” until they realized the Army was actually going to build and fly them for real, from real airstrips and in the AF airspace above 5000ft agl) didn’t think a slow, twin engine prop plane was sexy, they kept designing, building and marketing big, fast airliners, stealth fighters and corporate jets to whisk Dotcom 26 year old overnight billionaires to Malian for fashion week and created a false market need for overnight package delivery to sell large, expensive international cargo aircraft. (Does a person really need his new apple iPhone next business day before 10am? If a document needs to be reviewed or signed, PDF it and email it or better yet review it on line and make changes and sign it using video conferencing. )

    Right now the US, due to short sighted business practices, lost the short haul regional business to Canada and Brazil, we almost lost the large tanker expertise to Airbus, and now the short haul cargo aircraft are being built in Canada, Europe and Brazil.

    Now any time all across America when a WWII veteran, the greatest generation, wants to go visit there grand-kids less than 1000 miles from home here’s how they get there:
    They drive their Asian (Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Lexus, Honda, Acura, Infinity), or Europe (MB, BMW, Volvo or Jaguar) designed and parts supplied car to the airport, sure they may be assembled here in the US at plants in SC, Alabama, Tenn. etc, but the parts are engineered and made in Asia, Europe, Mexico or Canada.

    They will park their cars in the parking lot and take a bus to the terminal (probably a European built Sprinter or a Mitsubishi or Volvo small frame, economical bus because small, fuel efficient buses and cargo haulers aren’t sexy either Americans kept building large trucks and SUVs so soccer moms could get to Williams Sonoma and no one but poor inner city people ride the bus, large, diesel/NG powered 50 pax buses, spending 80% of their time with only 10-15 people on them unless the families from the suburbs are braving the inner city to see their favorite sports team play)

    He will wait in the terminal, holding a boarding pass transmitted over a CAT5 cable made in Korea printed on a printer built in China using a toner cartridge made in Mexico all shipped to the US on a Panamanian Flagged, Korean Heavy Industries built container ship. He will check in with kids just prior to boarding using a Nokia phone manufactured in Japan.

    Finally two bright spots, the veteran will probably have passed through a detector or security system made by L3Comm in the post 9/11 rush for homeland security and he will walk down a Jetway ™ built by an American company Jetway Systems in Ogden UT.

    Most likely on flights of less than 1000 miles with 50-100 pax he will board a Bombardier built regional jet (This Canadian company also owns Learjet in Wichita, KS) or an Embraer (Built in Brazil) aircraft. One bright spot is the aircraft maybe powered by a GE built engine.

    In 2000 the WTO ordered Brazil to eliminate its Proex (Programa de Financiamento às Exportações) program, which was found to aid Embraer in gaining market share. In October 19, 2001, the WTO ruled against Canada, just as it had ruled against Brazil, over low interest loans from the Canadian government designed to aid Bombardier in gaining market share.

    Upon landing he will probably be picked up by his son or daughter, maybe even in a US built SUV (or a Lexus SUV or maybe even a British Land Rover) and taken to see his grandchildren. Of course once he gets there he will view pictures of the grand-kids latest soccer game taken on an pacific rim built camera (possibly built on an island where a buddy of his died), printed on a printer made overseas, possibly China or Mexico and the kids will all be dressed in the same uniforms, all made in Guatemala.

    At the end of the day after a quick meal heated up in a microwave built in Mexico or China, served on plates made in Korea or Mexico. The proud WWII veteran and great grandfather (who fought his way across the pacific and who lost friends and brothers there fighting against Japan and Nazis) will sit down in front of a 42inch flat screen TV made in Japan to watch a blue ray movie with his great grandson on his Sony Playstation 3 made in Japan and watch a cartoon called Pokémon (that’s pocket monster in Japanese), After the movie is over he will retire to a bed covered with sheets, pillows and a comforter made somewhere in Central America.

    What will he dream about, he will remember the days when he flew in an American built airplane (Boeing, DC, North American) or rode on a US built train. (For emphasis, The Alicia Express, Amtrak’s only profitable train running from our nations capitol to NYC was built by Bombardier of Canada and Alstom of France and purchased by Amtrak, a US Government owned company using taxpayers money. This is the same train VP Joe Biden used to ride daily from him home in Delaware to the Nation’s Capitol when he was the Senator, making you believe he was a Joe Six Pack riding the rails when in reality he was riding a foreign built train bought with US taxpayers money, so it’s not just the airplane industry we need to be worried about)

    He dreamed of the American built Ford, Chevy or Chrysler car, using parts by AC Delco, PPG windshields FoMoCo, Champion, Goodyear etc. In his dream he watched TV on a Philco TV set and got his US brewed Budweiser beer from Saint Louis (now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, a Belgian/Brazilian brewer, along with Miller Brewing Company now owned by SABMiller South African Breweries) out of a White Westinghouse Refrigerator and heated up food on a GE stove in a pot made with steel from USSteel in Pittsburg, PA. He dreams of the time he took his family to beach, stayed in an American owned hotel, ate local seafood and took his kids out on the bay in a boat powered by a Evinrude engine (not the engines built by Bombardier in Canada but in the USA), caught the fish on a fishing reel made by Penn Reels in PA (not Shakesphere who bought the name in 2003 and makes the Penn reels overseas).

    Again two bright spots in this dream are the boat may have been a Chris Craft, still built in Florida and the fish may have been caught using Eagle Claw Hooks still made in the USA.

    I am not anti international trade (the 1970’s Harrier as a case in point) but if we make something in the USA and it meets the specs then buy it here. If we can’t make them fast enough or enough of them then lets spend some of the taxpayers money to increase manufacturing capacity. I’m sure an out of work auto worker in Detroit would love to make printers, copiers, outboard motors, trains etc.

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    Robert F. Dorr

    Thirty million college-educated Americans do not own a single book unless it was required for school or work. A larger number do not subscribe to a newspaper. One survey rates the United States 35th in literacy among the nations of the world. Thirty per cent of our population is life-threateningly obese. To understand why regional airliners are manufactured in Brazil and military airlifters in Italy, look at the typical American adult in the age 28 to 42 cohort.

    A better question ought to be, why is the Air Force performing so many Army missions? The Joint Cargo Aircraft or C-27J began as an Army-only program. The mission should have stayed with the Army.

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    Chuck Oldham (Editor)

    It’s not just that American industry didn’t build regional airliners, it’s that in the near future, they may not even be capable of doing so. The demographics are not good. Skilled aerospace and defense industry workers are aging, and our schools are not producing students with the ability to replace them. Students are not interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-based careers.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-229">

    We are reinventing the wheel again from Viet Nam on the “Last Mile Airlift”. The US Army used to use the the CV2 Caribou to resupply their small Special Forces camps out in the Boonies and other bases and camps thorughout Viet Nam. This airlift was controlled by the US Army. As Airlift increased within South Viet Nam, both the USA-USAF Under the Johnson-McConnell agreement of 1966, the Army relinquished the fixed wing Caribou to the United States Air Force in exchange for an end to restrictions on Army rotary wing operations. The USAF, 7AF and the 834AD took over all airlift with South Viet Nam, the US Army’s CV-2s were transferred to the US Air Force in 1967 and reassigned as C7A Caribou’s.
    Now, we are back in the same airlift arena of the US Army knows what they want, where and when and they want their own AC to make it happen. So, in the end again the USAF will get the C27J and within the conflict area the C27J will be flown by the USAF crews and be under the Operational controll of the US Army. That is what we are reading and hearing within the USAF.