The clock has ticked to zero on the C-27J as the first 21 cargo aircraft were set to be retired by Oct. 1.
The Dayton Daily News has reported that the first twelve have been taken out of service and shipped to the boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. Even more C-27Js are set to be delivered to the Air Force only to be sent immediately to the boneyard.
This comes at an especially sensitive time with the government in the second week of the shutdown that occurred Oct. 1 after Congress failed to agree to a budget or continuing resolution for fiscal year 2014.
The original plan was to field a fleet of 38 C-27Js across the service as part of the Joint Cargo Aircraft Program. The Air Force had 15 C-27Js stationed at Guard bases and another two at Waco, Texas, at a L-3 Communications plant. Four more are on the books to be built by Alenia Aermacchi in Italy and sent to the U.S. in fiscal year 2013. Those newly built aircraft were scheduled to be sent directly to the boneyard.
The Air Force spent about $1.6 billion to purchase the 21 aircraft. Soon after the first C-27Js arrived in Afghanistan in 2011 to start resupplying deployed Army units, the Air Force said it could no longer afford the luxury of the aircraft.
The C-27J found itself in the middle of the debate between the Air Force active duty and the Air National Guard. Guard officials said the Air Force leadership was unfairly hacking away at the Guard’s budget in order to save the active duty. The C-27J fleet was a shining example the Guard used.
Air Force leaders justified scrapping the C-27J saying the C-130 could complete most of the missions, and it could do it cheaper.
Air Force officials had argued the sustainment costs were too expensive to keep the C-27J when compared to the C-130. Former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told Congress in 2012 it cost $9,000 per hour to fly the C-27J and $10,400 to fly the C-130. Even though the C-130 was slightly higher per hour, the C-130 is well established within the fleet and the Air Force couldn’t afford to introduce and sustain the C-27J.
The Ohio Air National Guard, which is one of four Guard units that fly the C-27J, had cost estimates of their own. Officials with the Ohio Guard said it cost $2,100 per hour to fly the C-27J and $7,000 per hour to fly the C-130.
Congress ordered the Air Force within the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act to form a working group and add 32 strategic airlifters. Lawmakers did not specify that those airlifters be C-27Js and former Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said it was unlikely the service will keep the Spartan fleet alive.
The Air Force even flirted with the idea of even buying more C-27Js after it issued a request to industry on May 10 for proposals to purchase. That effort was thwarted by Congress even though language in a bill is what forced the Air Force to issue the request.