Contracts have already been signed for Alenia's C-27J Spartan and the Italian manufacturers will be promoting the transport aircraft at Paris

Italy's Alenia Aeronautica has been involved in the tactical transport business since the late 1960s, selling 111 of its G222 aircraft to nine countries, including the USA. The short take-off and landing aircraft, which has demonstrated its capabilities with the Italian air force in locations including East Timor and Somalia, and with the US Air Force in Central America, formed the basis of the more capable C-27J Spartan developed by the Finmeccanica group member and Lockheed Martin. Already in production for the Greek and Italian air forces, the new version was also selected by Bulgaria recently and is being promoted to numerous other potential buyers.

Athens' first aircraft has already been delivered, and its second will be displayed at the Paris air show, says C-27J programme manager Roberto Polidoro. Alenia's company demonstrator will also take part in the show after returning from a demonstration tour in the USA. The Greek air force has ordered 12 C-27Js in a baseline configuration plus additional ballistic protection and a yet-to-be-selected defensive aids subsystem. Eight of these will be delivered this year, with the remaining four – which will also have an in-flight refuelling capability – to follow in 2006. The service has an option for three more aircraft.

The first of Italy's 12 C-27Js is expected to fly before the end of July, says Polidoro, with certification and delivery scheduled for early 2006. Italy's aircraft will be delivered in an enhanced configuration including head-up displays common with Lockheed's larger C-130J Hercules, a third flightdeck crew position, auto-throttles, in-flight refuelling probe and a digital map. The aircraft will also have an enhanced navigation and communication suite and an integrated defensive aids subsystem.

Bulgaria, which selected the type in April, is expected to sign a contract for eight aircraft shortly before the Le Bourget show, to replace its Antonov An-26s (Flight International, 12-18 April). Its air force is expected to opt for a mixed fleet of aircraft, with some to be equipped with self-protection systems and the first two to be delivered in 2006. Alenia is now participating in tenders in Finland and Portugal, with demonstration campaigns also conducted in the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Oman, Romania and the United Arab Emirates.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Alenia North America/L-3 Integrated Systems joint venture Global Military Aircraft Systems (GMAS) has concluded the first phase of a US demonstration tour with the C-27J, having responded to a request for information for the US Army's Future Cargo Aircraft (FCA) programme last month. "The C-27J already has more than 50% US content and this will grow tangibly under the new joint-venture arrangement," says Alenia North America.

Army contest

The army's initial contract will be for 33 aircraft for delivery between fiscal years 2007 and 2011 to replace its Shorts C-23B Sherpas, with the potential to replace other army platforms later. Alenia North America president and chief executive officer Giuseppe Giordo says GMAS is likely to propose assembling the army's C-27Js in Italy before flying the green airframes to L-3 facilities in the USA, where they will be receive mission equipment and undergo customer acceptance testing. The potential to expand the FCA deal to about 128 aircraft could lead to local assembly and GMAS is examining other opportunities for the C-27J with the US armed forces, says Giordo. The team is also actively pursuing a 15-aircraft programme to replace Lockheed CC-130s and de Havilland Canada CC-115 Buffalos used by Canada for search-and-rescue tasks.

Based on its systems integration expertise and its partner in the ATR Group, Alenia has also developed the ATR 42MP Surveyor maritime surveillance aircraft for civil and military applications. The modified regional airliner has a Selex/Galileo Avionica airborne tactical observation and surveillance tactical control system and surface surveillance sensors.

Also to be displayed at the Paris air show, the ATR 42MP is in operational use with the Italian coastguard and its customs service. The aircraft is being promoted to countries including Australia and India and to other nations in the Asian and Mediterranean regions, says Bertolina Ermanno, Alenia's ATR special mission aircraft programme manager.

Turkey's SSM defence procurement authority this year selected Alenia to meet its Meltem 3 requirement for 10 maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft with a dedicated version of the ATR 72/500 called the ATR 72 ASW (Flight International, 25-31 January). The aircraft will have a new glass cockpit and a mission and sensor suite provided by Thales Airborne Systems.

Also carrying a surveillance radar, electro-optical sensor, magnetic anomaly detector, acoustic processing system, and sonobuoy and armament launchers, the ATR 72 ASW can loiter for 6h at 370km (200nm) from its base. The modified aircraft will have a maximum take-off weight of 22,500kg (49,600lb).

Alenia will conduct systems integration and installation work, as well as performing airframe modifications in Turkey with local companies. Certification of the new variant will be carried out by Italy's military authorities. Turkish engineers will also participate in the programme in Italy, providing the basis for a joint programme to provide in-service suppport for the aircraft. Ankara is expected to sign a contract to proceed with the ATR 72 ASW programme before year-end.

Alenia is also involved in the tanker and aircraft support business through its Officine Aeronavali subsidiary. The first of three air force Boeing 767s to be converted in Italy for tanker-transport missions was recently delivered to Alenia in Naples.


Source: Flight International