Medium airlift and the big sales spat

If you thought that salesperson trash-talk at air shows is exclusively the reserve of Airbus and Boeing these days, think again.

During two otherwise innocuous press briefings at the Singapore air show yesterday, the heat was well and truly turned up on an already simmering rivalry between the manufacturers of the C-27J (below) and C295 medium transports.


Alenia Aermacchi didn’t have anything particularly new to say about the C-27J Spartan, so used their briefing to talk down their main sales rival for being smaller, slower and less cost-effective, and also worse under combat conditions. Confusingly, the Italian company also described its aircraft as “the best-selling medium transport in its category”. While the C295 has sold more, its company doesn’t include those configured for jobs like maritime patrol against its dedicated battlefield airlifter.

Later in the day, the Q&A session at the end of an Airbus Defence & Space presentation provided the opportunity for their representative to defend the C295′s honour.

C295 DEW

Commercial director Christian Scherer said he wouldn’t take the bait, but then did, describing the Alenia official’s comments as being “an emotional outburst by a frustrated competitor”. He also pointed to an in-service fleet of more than 160 of the company’s light and medium transports in Asia, versus a current zero Spartans; Australia’s first of 10 was flown for the last time late last year, so that won’t be the case for much longer.

So, why did this all kick off in Singapore? Interestingly, neither company voluntarily mentioned India’s Avro HS 748 replacement contest during their presentations, but were asked to comment on the status of their bids by Indian journalists. Responses to a request for proposals are likely to go in early next month, with the deal previously expected to be for 56 aircraft. For companies used to picking up orders for two or three units at a time, that’s a huge opportunity to secure full bragging rights next time round.

Of course, The DEW Line is fully “platform agnostic”, but which would you want in your air force inventory, folks?

15 Responses to Medium airlift and the big sales spat

  1. Pietro Nurra 14 February, 2014 at 5:18 am #

    I didn’attend the conference but I think it is your thought that AA has nothing new to say what about imminent first flight of AMI MC-27J? What about USCG C-27J replacing HC-144A and in medium range missions HC-130H? The Airbus claim 160-0 is real bullshit compare C-27J with C212 is really a nonsense why do not count single TP,Helos, Airships baloons? When minimum requirement are not artificially lowered for lobby, budget constrains C-27J is the choi ce!ci

    • Craig Hoyle 14 February, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

      Pietro, apologies firstly for your message not having appeared straight away; now that I’ve approved this one they should come up straight away now. Nothing sinister, just our way of keeping spam off the site.

      To run through your points, no, AA barely mentioned the MC-27J modification, which I would personally have found more interesting. Will the USCG C-27Js replace their CN-235s? I thought they were to replace aged C-130s. And what about modifying the Spartans for a SAR role? No word that money exists for that yet, but hopefully this finally will end the ridiculous mess that the US military made of the JCA programme.

      Key point here – the new Airbus Defence & Space guy – in their first major press conference since rebranding, referred to the sales history of their light and medium aircraft in Asia Pacific. He was not implying that C295 has sold 160 units, nor that the C212 can be compared with C-27J. Probably as much BS as a company saying it has the best selling product when it has delivered 59 examples versus the rival’s 100-plus.

      For the purposes of my poll, I’ll mark you down as preferring the C-27J!

  2. Pietro Nurra 14 February, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

    If you compare the contract values of 59 C-27J vs 100 C-295 you can appreciate that AA statement is not bullshit (due to the different unit value) numbers of planes does not tell you all (F-22 is not like F-16).
    As far as I know the USCG is evaluating C-27J capabilities Adm. Papp declared that C-27J could perfom around 2/3 of HC-130H missions at 1/2 of the cost .They have placed your beloved C-235MP /HC-144A program at so called “strategic pause” stopping the further 18 planes order.
    The above could imply they foresee the possibility to replace both HC-130H and HC-144A in particular for medium range missions.
    I think Alenia Aermacchi plan to compete for FWSAR tender with a SAR version Canadianized C-27J that could get credits from the USCG MP variant and in Canada the better performance will bring more

    • Pietro Nurra 14 February, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

      more lives saved!

    • Craig Hoyle 15 February, 2014 at 8:47 pm #

      Funny; I’ve never been accused of having the CN235 as my “beloved” aircraft before. Always been more of a Harrier fan!

  3. jetcal1 14 February, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

    After all of the hyperbole, I think I should shop the Embraer KC-390 or Kawasaki C-2 before I settled on either of the above companies.

    • Craig Hoyle 15 February, 2014 at 8:50 pm #

      They certainly both have a big of a size advantage of the Airbus & Alenia models!

      • jetcal1 19 February, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

        I would bet a tendered offer might be very interesting compared to EADS or Alenia

  4. Dorapilot 15 February, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    Dear all, first of all I understood Alenia Aermacchi sold 76 C-27J not 56. If you exclude the MAritime Patrol variants of the C-295 and keep attention to the tactical transport versions you can say why the Italians claim to have the best seller airlifter in the category. I think ir right to compare apple with apple. When also the Spartan will be a Maritime Patrol, and that will happen soon with USCG, the situation will change, of course.

    By the way, the USCG Spartan will replace CASA 235 as the agency will stop to buy them, claiming the Spartan more capable (Adm. Papp in a recent interview with Defence News).

    Airbus claims were hilarious. They incude in the 160 transports sold vs 0 by Alenia Aaermacchi all the CASA 212, CN-235 and C295 sold in Aasia. Maybe your readers would be surprised in not seeing in the list also the A400M!!

    Of the C295 sold in Asia only the Oman contract was achieved after a real competitive evaluation. The other ones: Jordan, Kazakhstan and indonesia were just direct sales.
    The bitter reality for the Spanish is that when a real military requirement is issued, the C295 is out of the competition: US, Australia, Peru, the last one get them mad as broke a monopoly in their former colonial empire!

    That’s I think is the message the Italians delivered at Singapore. A message that is worth to listen

    • Craig Hoyle 15 February, 2014 at 8:34 pm #

      They have sold 76 and delivered 56; as I said in my first article:

      Let’s wait and see what happens in India – that’s a true competition for an airlifter only, and for a serious number of aircraft.

      • Pietro Nurra 16 February, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

        I apologize if I have misunderstood your ideas about C-295/235.Anyway I have my doubts about Indian Avro 748 replacement competiton they are not looking at capabilities but to the lower acquisition cost.Regarding KC-390 and C-2 they are in the middle between C-130j & A-400m then a different category of planes and being equipped with underwing turbofans I would like to see how they can operate from unprepared strips.

  5. K.B. 16 February, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    Nobody denies that the C-27J ist the more powerful aircraft. But we live in the real world, not in a wonderland.

    Just read this comparison:

  6. Dorapilot 18 February, 2014 at 8:14 am #

    @K.B. the link you mention is an interesting reading. Well done analysis that confirm what I said in my comment: the Airbus Military C295 is cheaper (but that must be, by definition, as it is a smaller, less powerful, slower, bring less payload, has less range etc.).
    When capabilities are the key decision factor the Spartan win, when the budget lead, the C295 can be an option, but the two aircrfat belong to different categories.

  7. Dorapilot 18 February, 2014 at 8:25 am #

    @Craig: You said: “Let’s wait and see what happens in India – that’s a true competition for an airlifter only, and for a serious number of aircraft”.

    I don’t think India will be a case study, not even a true competition. Actually, India just want the cheaper solution. There is no interest in capabilities, no interest in performances, no interest in having something that can really be used as a military transport. With those parameters the ideal aircraft to replace the Avro would be an ATR72, much cheaper to buy and to operate than any other contenders. It only miss the rear ramp that it is included in the requirement.

    India Avro Replacement Program will turn in a way similar to the MMRCA fighter tender: an L1 option will be chosen (less costly bid), with no operational life cost calculated, not real IP factors evaluated, etc.

    At the end will turn – as the MMRCA – in the usual Indian procurement mess, considering also the involvement of a private company with no experience in aircraft manufacturing.

    With this program India will have another platform – very cheap to buy, but operationally useless in the harsh Indian environment in the mountains or in the western desert and costly to operate in the vast distances of the country – to be added to the already messy transport flet inventory: Dornier 228, Avro HS.748, An-32, C-130J, Il-76, C-17 and in the future the MTA.

  8. RC 19 February, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    I see that the Italian contingent is out here and no less “emotional” than Alenia itself. I would say that it would be better for them if they concentrated on defending the Spartan’s service record, rather than speculating on its future developments, never mind spewing venom against Airbus’ offering (which, like the Spartan, has now amply proven its worth in the real world).

    Anyway, with respect to the Indian contest, a couple of points:

    a) Indian contests are indeed a mess (see MMRCA). I wouldn’t count on a speedy resolution in any case.

    b) Alenia is handicapped in India anyway by belonging to the Finmeccanica concern, which has a bit of a reputation problem in the subcontinent after the AW101 scandal. I wouldn’t expect India to buy much Italian hardware for the next decade or so…

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