Australia’s C-27J Spartan battlefield airlifter has achieved the IOC milestone, Defence Minister Marise Payne announced on December 16.
She said: “The Spartan can access airfields that are unable to support larger transport aircraft, thus increasing the reach for Defence when supporting communities across Australia and throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The Spartan can now be tasked on missions to transport 40 passengers and three military pallets, as well as fulfil roles such as light equipment airdrop.”
Ten C-27Js are being acquired under the AUD 1.6 billion Project Air 8000 Phase 2 (Battlefield Airlift Capability). Four have been delivered to 35 Squadron at RAAF Base Richmond, west of Sydney and two are used to support training of Australian crews, with L-3 in Waco Texas. The RAAF says the programme is on track for all aircraft to be in Australia by early 2018.
Final operational capability is due to follow at the end of 2017 and, following the completion of facilities work at RAAF Base Amberley, south-west of Brisbane, 35 Squadron will relocate there in 2019.
The RAAF describes the Spartan as a fixedwing Chinook, reflecting its similar cargo compartment size and Army support roles and 35 Sqn personnel have been forging close working relationship with their Army rotary wing colleagues from the 5th Aviation Regiment.
Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, Air Marshal Davies, said: “The arrival of the Spartan will greatly increase the mobility and flexibility for local commanders, allowing intratheatre airlift that will bridge C-130J Hercules and CH-47 Chinook options.”
Australia’s Spartans are being acquired through a Foreign Military Sales agreement from L-3 and share a common configuration with the Spartans initially acquired by the US Air Force under the now defunct US Joint Cargo Aircraft programme. The ten aircraft fleet will provide a short-field tactical airlift capability to the RAAF, which was lost when the venerable De Havilland Canada DHC-4A Caribou was withdrawn from service at the end of 2009. No.35 Squadron gained fame flying the Caribou from Vung Tau during the Vietnam War, where it earned the nickname ‘Wallaby Airlines’.