Manufacturers expect programme to accelerate as Greece selects twin-engine transport and Brazil considers proposal

Alenia Aeronautica and partner Lockheed Martin are hoping the conclusion of an Italian air force contract for C-27J Spartans will bolster the programme, as Brazil prepares for a selection of tactical transports planned for September.

Italy has signed a c206 million ($201.5 million) contract for five C-27Js rather than the 12 expected, but has indicated seven options in the deal will be converted to orders within the year, says Stan Yackel, Lockheed Martin C-27J programme manager. The split is because the initial five transports are industry ministry funded and the remainder by the defence ministry.

Italy's is the first firm order for the twin-engined transport, although Greece has also selected it. Italy's aircraft are due for delivery between mid-2005 and late 2006 and will be equipped with head-up displays, defensive aids and in-flight refuelling probes.

"We're hoping the programme will accelerate," says Yackel. Projected sales have been hit by a number of programmes either axed or delayed. "All along we were waiting for Australia, and when that was turned upside down and cancelled it put everyone's timetable out," he adds.

Brazil is evaluating proposals submitted in February for 12 transports to replace its de Havilland DHC-5 Buffalos. Alenia has joined with Embraer to meet a 100% offset requirement, but the C-27J faces competition from the Antonov An-32-100 and the EADS Casa C295. The total requirement is for 18-24 aircraft.

Greece is expected to finalise a contract for 12 C-27Js, plus three options, by the end of the year. Deliveries have yet to be finalised and hinge on options, including defensive aids, the in-flight refuelling capability and additional communications systems, that Greece selects.

Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and the US Army National Guard continue to review the aircraft, says Yackel. The company is also hopeful of again offering the C-27J to Switzerland, after it scrapped a planned C295 purchase.

Lockheed Martin has delivered the first two of 10 stretched C-130J-30s on order to the Italian air force. Italy already has standard length  C-130Js in service.

The French air force has converted an option for three EADSCasa CN235M transports taken earlier this year into a firm order. The three aircraft will be delivered in the middle of next year.

Source: Flight International