Concern that the Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF) Light Transport Aircraft (LTA) requirement may be shelved because of budgetary problems has led Italy to attempt to interest Canberra in used aircraft to replace ageing de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribous.
Australian defence spending on all programmes worth more than A$50 million ($30.4 million) is under review and the LTA requirement is considered vulnerable to postponement or cancellation. Under consideration for the 10-aircraft order are the Lockheed Martin Alenia Tactical Transport Systems C-27J Spartan and the CASA C295.
Alenia and the Italian defence ministry plan to offer a stopgap solution based on used Italian air force G222s - from which the C-27J is derived.
The Italian air force and Alenia have been thrashing out a deal for the acquisition of 12 C-27Js, based on the manufacturer taking elderly G222s in part exchange. The two sides continue to discuss how many aircraft Alenia will take and the price. Any G222s for the RAAF would be refurbished and, in the longer term, replaced with more advanced C-27Js.
As well as the budget issue, the RAAF is reviewing its airlift needs following experience gained from operations for the United Nations in East Timor. The Italian air force says that these underlined the need for short-take off and landing aircraft able to operate from short semi-prepared airstrips, often in valleys.
The air force's G222s operated alongside RAAF Caribous during the East Timor crisis.
Source: Flight International