The fate of the C-27J in the U.S. fleet hasn’t been settled even though Air Force generals decided the service can’t afford the cargo aircraft two years ago.
Leaders from U.S. Special Operation Command, U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Forestry Service have contacted the Air Force with interest in accepting the C-27Js the Air Force has bought. However, before the Air Force hands over the aircraft, the Pentagon must decide if any will stay within the Defense Department.
Frank Kendall, the under secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, will make the final decision on the fate of the C-27J and whether any go to SOCOM or the Coast guard. He can authorize the Air Force’s transfer of the aircraft to SOCOM or the Coast Guard. However, if Kendall determines the Defense Department can’t afford the fleet and labels them excess, the aircraft will likely go to the Forestry Service.
The Coast Guard asked for all 21 of the Air Force’s C-27Js saying it would save the Coast Guard at least $1 billion in capital avoidance costs.
“We are in the midst of a fixed-wing recapitalization effort and the C-27J meets the key performance parameters for our medium-range surveillance maritime patrol aircraft,” Vice Adm. J.P. Currier wrote to Lt. Gen. Michael Moeller in a letter in April. “It is an ideal aircraft that is capable of replacing portions of both the USCG Medium and Long-Range Maritime Patrol.”
SOCOM has asked for eight C-27Js, according to a letter by Maj. Gen. Thomas Trask dated March 25. SOCOM would use the eight C-27Js to replace the fleet of CASA 212 aircraft that support training at the U.S. John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.
“These aircraft are reaching the end of their service life and the C-27J is a perfect platform to fill this requirement,” Trask wrote in the letter to the Air Force.
Meanwhile, the Forestry Service says it could use seven C-27J and C-130J aircraft to serve as air tankers.
“The C-130J has consistently performed as an outstanding air tanker, and we believe the C-27J has the potential for perform as an excellent air tanker as well,” Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
The Air Force had planned 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 were purchased from Alenia Aermacchi and sent to the U.S. in fiscal year 2013. Those newly built aircraft were scheduled to be sent directly to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. — better known as the boneyard..
The Air Force spent about $1.6 billion to purchase those first 21 aircraft. However, 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.
As SOCOM, the Coast Guard and the Forestry Service wait for an answer from the Pentagon, the Air Force has started shipping the 21 C-27Js to the boneyard.
If a decision had come sooner, the agencies could have picked up the aircraft directly from the Air Force unit, an Air Force official said. However, the defense budget called for the Air Force to retire the C-27J by the end of fiscal year 2013.