Leonardo will from 2019 deliver its C-27J Spartan battlefield airlifter in a new baseline configuration featuring updated avionics and winglets as standard.

Flight tests of the modernised variant are due to begin later this year, with the modifications in 2017 having passed the critical design review milestone.

Although the Italian airframer began flight trials of the winglets in 2015, it has only just revealed its progress on the project.

“In the C-27J programme, development of the new baseline configuration continued until the critical design review of the configuration was concluded," says the company in its 2017 annual report. "The wing reinforcement systems were also modified in preparation for the installation of the winglet, which will become basic for the aircraft.”

No price increase for operators is envisaged as a result of the changes, with the manufacturer also having carried out a shake-up of the twin-turboprop's production system to keep costs competitive. This saw fuselage manufacturing moved from Naples to Leonardo's Caselle, Turin site, where final assembly of the C-27J is also located.

"This consolidation allowed to improve the assembly flow in order to achieve shorter flow time and better industrial efficiency," says Leonardo.

In addition, the airframer may offer the Spartan to the civil freighter market, following the lead of Lockheed Martin with its LM-100J variant of the C-130J.

Leonardo says it has received "several requests" from civil operators and is now assessing its next step.

"In this market, the C-27J would provide users, if compared with higher-end solutions, with significantly lower acquisition and operational costs," it says.

Orders for the C-27J have been subdued in recent years, with the sole commitment in 2017 a three-unit deal from an undisclosed African nation.

Source: FlightGlobal.com