Australia's first C-27J Spartan's maiden flight is expected mid-November in Italy. (Katsuhiko Tokunaga / Alenia Aermacchi)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — The head of Australia’s New Airlift Project Office revealed the maiden flight of Australia’s first C-27J Spartan tactical airlifter will occur in Italy in mid-November, two months ahead of schedule.
Australia is buying 10 C-27Js under Project AIR 8000 Phase 2 via a Foreign Military Sales agreement with the United Sates. L-3 Communications is the prime contractor and the first Spartan is due to be handed over at L-3s facility in Waco, Texas, in the second half of next year.
Group Capt. Warren Bishop, who heads New Airlift Project Office, also said the project was on time and on budget, despite the United States Air Force divesting itself of its C-27J fleet.
“The project remains on schedule, the FMS case contracting processes are on schedule, the US Air Force program for contracting the prime contractors to deliver training is also on schedule and on-task and we’re relatively happy,” he said.
“The US Air Force is divesting itself of its C-27J capability but we knew that before the project started and we analyzed what risks that posed to us. We have determined that it actually does not impact on us at all, we were going to operate the aircraft organically anyway.”
Three Australian C-27Js will remain in the United States — the first, second and fifth airframes — to carry out initial air and ground crew training. The first aircraft delivered to Australia — aircraft three and four off the line — are expected to arrive in March 2015.The Commonwealth of Australia has also signed an interim three-year support contract with L-3 to cover support and training until an indigenous Trough Life Support contract is negotiated with Australian industry.
“We are going to open tender compete the TLS arrangements, the team will be stood up by January and because we bought three years of interim logistics support from the OEM, we will have three years from the middle of next year to put in place an organic Australian TLS solution,” Bishop said.
The Australian C-27J acquisition process has been under scrutiny by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) after then-Opposition concerns over process and value for money. However the report, released Aug.15 gave the project a green light
The report found that the acquisition process, “Did not cogently establish the case for undertaking a direct source FMS procurement, and there were also shortcomings in Defence’s handling of relations with industry during the course of the procurement.” However, it found the process was not in breach of Australian government financial regulations and that there were also reasonable grounds for the C-27Js selection on a value-for-money basis.
Final Operating Capability (FOC) is currently set to occur at the end of 2017.