Alenia and Lockheed Martin hope to land the first long-awaited launch orders for the C-27J Spartan this year with Italy set to sign a contract for 12 aircraft and Brazil releasing a request for proposals, kicking off its CL-X requirement for a similar number of transports.

The Italian defence ministry is expected shortly to sign a contract following the green light from Rome. The Italian aircraft will feature options including a removable in-flight refuelling probe, head-up display and defensive aids system. The first transport is tentatively scheduled for delivery in late 2004.

"The Italian configuration represents a comprehensive set of changes to the baseline aircraft," says Stan Yackel, Lockheed Martin C-27J programme director. Hardware selection will be by Alenia and the Italian government, while Lockheed Martin will provide much of the system integration.

Brazil is due to receive bids by the end of this month for 12 aircraft to replace its de Havilland Canada DHC-5 Buffalos, with EADS Casa expected to offer the C295. Brazil is planning to start evaluations in March. These are likely to include in-country trials to verify austere landing strip and hot-and-high performance. A final decision is anticipated this year.

Meanwhile, Greece is seeking up to 15 aircraft. Proposals were submitted some time ago, but continue to remain valid through a succession of extensions. Other potential sales include Taiwan for 18-22 aircraft, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. Switzerland is reconsidering its two to four aircraft requirement, having selected the C295 but not finalised a contract following changes to the country's law regarding the international deployment of its armed forces.

Lockheed continues to seek US congressional funding for the US National Guard to order the C-27J as a Shorts C-23 replacement, while it has also been offered as a platform for the US Army's airborne common sensor requirement.


Source: Flight International