Defence has submitted what it terms a ‘nonbinding/no-commitment’ Letter of Request to the US Department of Defense seeking price and availability information on the C-27J Spartan light tactical airlifter.
This could be a suitable replacement for the RAAF’s Caribou transport aircraft under Project Air 8000 Ph.2, according to Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, and Minister for Defence Materiel, Jason Clare.
The retirement in 2009 of the Caribous left the RAAF with a military capability gap which has been filled on an ad hoc basis by C-130H and J Hercules and Beechcraft King Air 350s and helicopters.
The C-130H is due to retire in 2013, although Defence is developing a proposal to retain these aircraft until 2016.
Air 8000 Ph. 2 will replace the Caribou transport aircraft with to 10 new light, fixed wing Battlefield Airlifters.
L-3 Communications is assembling 38 C-27Js for the US Air National Guard at a new facility in Florida, but as this is due to close soon Smith and Clare announced last week that the Government had authorised the Letter of Request for a possible purchase of up to 10 C-27Js under a US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement. The C-27J was designed originally by Italian firm Alenia, which also manufactures the aircraft in Italy.
“The issuing of a Letter of Request does not involve any financial or contractual commitment on Australia to acquire the aircraft,” they said.
“The information from the Letter of Request will inform Government consideration of capability, cost and schedule issues associated with this project as well as consideration of the acquisition strategy, including whether a broader tender process will be pursued.”
The Government will also consider other alternatives which could meet the RAAF’s need for a Battlefield Airlifter, including the Airbus Military C-295.
Defence anticipates receiving a response to the Letter of Request by February 2012.
“Careful consideration of all the options will then proceed,” according to Smith and Clare.