USAF could expand G222 order for Afghanistan

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Alenia Aeronautica will formally deliver on 25 September the first of at least 18 refurbished G222 transports to the Afghan National Army Air Corps (ANAAC).

The US Air Force, which is buying the aircraft on behalf of Afghanistan, has also asked Alenia to submit pricing information for supplying two more G222s, and to provide information about installing anti-missile systems across the fleet, a senior Alenia official says.

The first delivery ceremony at Alenia's G222 modification centre in Capodichino, Italy, comes less than a year the USAF signed a $287 million contract for the first 18 aircraft.

Alenia has removed the former Italian Air Force G222s, which the ANAAC will designate as the C-27, from storage. The refurbished aircraft are guaranteed to operate for 10,000 flight hours, the Alenia official says.

The refurbishment process has gone smoothly, the official adds, but there have been some surprises. Structural cracks and corrosion have been found in unexpected places on different aircraft, such as the leading edges of the wings and the horizontal stabilizers.

But Alenia's G222 specialists have been able to correct the issues as they have been found, the official says, noting the Capodichino facility's long experience supporting the aircraft type.

Alenia will soon begin training the US Air Force advisors who will repeat the instructional process for the ANAAC's C-27 pilots, crews, maintainers and logisticians.

The ANAAC plans to stand-up the C-27 operating base in Kabul in October, with the first aircraft arriving in November. The last of the 18 aircraft currently on order is scheduled for delivery in September 2011.

Alenia views the G222 sale to the ANAAC as a critical strategic step. It is the first time the USAF has selected to Alenia to serve as a prime contractor for a major acquisition programme.

The template for the G222 sale also may be repeated by Alenia on other aircraft for the ANAAC. The company is already proposing to sell surplus Italian AMX trainers to Afghanistan.