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IAF issues RFI for C 27J Spartan

  Published: July 2010

New Delhi. The Indian Air Force has issued a Request for Information (RFI) for 16 medium military transport aircraft.


According to Alenia Aeronautica’s India director Roberto Leva, his company was responding with information about C 27J Spartan, which he described as “the new generation medium military airlifter’s category” capable of taking off from unprepared strips “less than 500 metre long with maximum takeoff weight of 30,500 kg.”

He told newmen that the Spartan can be used both for civilian and military purposes and would be particularly suitable for India’s hilly northeastern states.

Paolo Girasole, head of Alenia parent company Finmeccanica in India, said that India could be a market for some 50 C 27Js, given the requirement to reach in difficult terrains with quick landings and getaways. The Border security force (BSF) had already issued a Request for Proposals (RfP) for two aircraft and trials were held last year in July in Bangalore and Leh.

Leva pointed out that an advantage of the aircraft was that it had the same Rolls Royce engines as the Lockheed martin C 130J which India is buying, and that the two aircraft complimented each other. Both of them are configured to carry pallets weighing up to 4,700 kg and high up to 2.2 metres.

So, he added, operationally and in terms of maintenance, the acquisition of this aircraft would be cost-effective.

Leva said that Alenia Aeronautica is excited about the prospects of entering the Indian defence and security market, and that the C 27J is capable of performing a range of missions – transport of troops, goods and medicines, logistic, re-supply, medical evacuation, airdrop operations, paratroopers launch, search and rescue, fire-fighting, humanitarian assistance and missions in support of homeland security.

The twin-engine turboprop has state-of-the-art avionics, propulsion and systems with three distinctive features – Self-deployment, Survivability and Interoperability.

Besides the BSF, the company is optimistic that the aircraft can be of use to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) as well as the National Security Guard (NSG) as a potential customer.

For instance, Leva said the aircraft is designed to operate in remote areas like those in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East from gravel or sand. The aircraft has the ability to do so since besides the twin-engines it has an auxiliary power unit (APU) that provides electricity and maintains pressure without the need to keep the engines running when the aircraft is on ground.

The APU also gives the aircraft power to load mission kits.

The underlying philosophy is mission accomplishment and critical equipment is protected taking into account that the aircraft could come under attack while carrying out any of the multiple missions it can perform. The cockpit is armoured with ballistic proof ceramic that also protects critical equipment like oxygen tanks.

So much so, the design takes care to have two independent hydraulic systems, one on each side, so that if one side is damaged, the other can operate even with the help of the APU. A technology has been employed which prevents the fuel tanks from exploding even after being hit by bullets. The aircraft has the ability to manoeuvre up to 3G.

As for interoperability, Leva said the C-27J Spartan compliments the C 130J Super Hercules produced by the Lockheed Martin since both aircraft use the standard 436L pallets. The advantage being that these pallets can be down/ uploaded from either plane.

He said that US Air Force is among the seven air forces of the world that have ordered the C 27J. The US has awarded a $ 2.04 billion contract for 78 aircraft to be shipped to the US Army and Air Force within the bid for the Joint Cargo Aircraft programme.

The JCA is a key element for the transformation of the transport fleet of the US Army and the US Air Force to meet the new operational requirements with multirole and interoperable aircraft able to perform logistical re-supply troop and humanitarian assistance.

As an example, he said, pallets with relief or logistic material could be loaded on to the C130J Hercules and off-loaded and then re-loaded within a short period of time with the same pallets onto the Spartan, which can deliver it to areas where the bigger plane cannot land. The US realised it would require such an aircraft after hurricane Katrina when it could not reach some areas or evacuate people from there.

In its air ambulance role, the C 27J can accommodate up to 36 stretchers with each having its own oxygen point, a facility also available to the 46 paratroopers its can carry. It is capable of taking off from and landing on unprepared strips, less than 500 metres long, with maximum take-off weight of 30,500 kgs. It can carry 60 fully equipped soldiers.

It can transport fighter and transport aircraft engines such as for the C-130, the Eurofighter Typhoon, the F-16 and Mirage-2000 directly on their normal engine dollies without further special equipment.

At present, besides the US, the C-27 J has been ordered by the air forces of Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania, Morocco. Slovakia has also selected the aircraft.

Lithuania got its first aircraft in December 2006 and it has been put to extensive use to support the country’s troops in Afghanistan. Morocco is the first non-NATO customer and it ordered four aircraft for about Euro 130 million during September 2008.

According to Maj Jurius Jaksys, C-27J Pilot of the Lithuanian Air Force (LTAF), the aircraft has been landing at a dusty, semi-prepared air strip, 6,000-feet long and at a height of 7,500 feet, at Chagcharan in Afghanistan routinely without any problem. There are clouds always and no navigation aids, but despite their absence, the mission computer helps in accurate landings and takeoffs.

He also says that the aircraft is highly manoeuverable due to its engine power. A significant factor is the C 27J’s Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), which allows it to operate in remote areas without any ground support equipment. “We can get all the necessary electrical and hydraulic power from the aircraft even with the engines off” and that means that the C 27J can stay on location for a longer time if required.

Alenia Aeronatica is a Finmeccanica Company that operates world-wide in design, development, production, maintenance and modification of commercial and military aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and aerostructures. It has collaborations with SuperJet of Russia, Boeing and L3 Communications of the US, and BAE Systems of Britain.

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