Australian Air Show: RAAF plans tactical shift to C-27J

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Spartan appears poised to secure 12-aircraft deal, reversing service's previous selection of EADS Casa's C-295

Alenia Aeronautica has renewed an exclusive support and service deal with Boeing Australia, as its C-27J Spartan appears to have been selected for Australia's tactical transport requirement five years after it lost the Air 5190 light tactical airlifter project to EADS Casa's C-295.

Senior Department of Defence sources told Flight International that a selection has already been made to replace the Royal Australian Air Force's de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou transports, and that the deal will not be subject to competition.

 
© Justin Wastnage / Flight International   

Alenia expects a formal announcement after Australia's federal elections

Alenia sources confirm the Italian company has been selected for the renamed Air 8000 phase 2 project, but say a formal announcement is not expected until after the Australian federal election and subsequent defence budget.

The C-295 was previously selected ahead of the C-27J as the Caribou replacement, but the programme was cancelled due to budgetary constraints related to Australia's deployment of troops in East Timor. Interoperability with the Lockheed Martin C-130J is understood to be the defining factor in the reversal. EADS Casa officials were not available for comment.

Alessandro Franzoni, Alenia senior vice-president and head of its C-27J business unit, says all capabilities have been demonstrated to the RAAF during the aircraft's visit to Australia. This included a technical stop at Townsville airbase, one of three locations earmarked for C-27J operations, along with Amberley and Richmond. "We wait for the programme to be officially launched, but we expect a requirement to be around 12 aircraft," says Franzoni.

The RAAF deal is among numerous campaigns being conducted by Alenia, which has identified a potential market for around 370 C-27Js in 20 countries, says Franzoni. The company has started initial studies into creating a new version with a fuselage stretch of 4m (13.1ft) to meet a logistics requirement from India, he says.

Alenia last week revived its Air 5190 service and support agreement with Boeing Australia. This relationship will be expanded to include other Australian industrial partners once the RAAF's requirements are defined, says Boeing Australia president David Withers.