Last week the first C-27J Spartan to be painted in the service’s colors was accepted by the Coast Guard HC-27J Asset Project Office (APO) in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, according to a Coast Guard news release. The service’s new medium range surveillance aircraft, CGNR-2706, will go to Air Station Sacramento, California, this summer. Air Station Sacramento is transitioning to the C-27J from the HC-130H Hercules. Five Spartans are currently operating at the APO, and the Coast Guard is conducting test flights on a sixth aircraft with the Air Force’s 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) in Tucson, Arizona, where Air Force Spartans are being regenerated for Coast Guard service. The paint job was applied by Leading Edge Aviation Services in Fort Worth, Texas, under an existing Army contract, and a second aircraft was delivered to the paint facility March 21.
Chosen in 2007 as the intra-theater joint cargo aircraft (JCA) under an Army and Air Force program, the Spartan was planned to carry people and cargo to forward operating locations and operate from unprepared landing strips. Alenia Aermacchi and L-3 Communications joined forces to sell and support the JCA, and original plans called for 54 Spartans for the Air Force and 24 for the Army. But when the Army didn’t have the budget and handed over lead of the program to the Air Force, the Spartan’s days were numbered. The Air Force, also facing budget challenges, cut the Spartan program back to the 21 aircraft already procured, and then stripped them from the Air National Guard units already operating them. Put into long-term storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the C-27Js later became a windfall for the Coast Guard, allowing it to save billions it would have spent on an additional 18 HC-144A Ocean Sentry aircraft. Of the 21 C-27J Spartans procured by the Air Force before it canceled the program, 14 went to the Coast Guard and 7 were gifted to U.S. Army Special Operations Command.