RAAF Base Richmond, Australia — The first Alenia Aermacchi C-27J Spartan airlifter for the Royal Australian Air Force was handed over in a ceremony Tuesday at Richmond, west of Sydney.

The aircraft is one of 10ten on order for the RAAF, which are built as "green" airframes by Alenia Aermacchi in Italy and completed to US Joint Cargo Aircraft standards by L-3 Communications in Waco, Texas, under a US $1.4 billion foreign military sales deal.

Two RAAF C-27Js are already with L-3 in the US to support training of Australian crews and one a second aircraft will be delivered to Australia in August.

The Spartans will provide a short-field tactical airlift capability to the RAAF that was lost when the elderly De Havilland Canada DHC-4A Caribou was retired at the end of 2009.

They will be operated by No. 35 squadron, which gained fame as "Wallaby Airlines" during the Vietnam war.

In one of his last formal duties before stepping down at the end of the week, Air Marshal Geoff Brown, RAAF chief, accepted the first Spartan at Richmond on behalf of the commonwealth.

"The government's decision to acquire the Spartan will give the Royal Australian Air Force the best tactical air mobility capability that we could acquire," he said.

"The C-27J will also become the real workhorse in humanitarian disaster and relief operations."

Initial operational capability (IOC) for the C-27J fleet is planned for late 2016, which is represented by four aircraft in Australia and the capability of conducting airlift tasking. Final operational capability is set to follow by the end of 2017.

The Spartans will join the Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules, Boeing C-17A Globemaster III and Airbus Defence & Space KC-30A multirole tanker transport (MRTT) in the RAAF's Air Mobility Group fleet.

The Spartans will be based at Richmond for an initial period before moving to Amberley, southwest of Brisbane, around the end of 2017.

"L-3 Communications has worked closely with the Royal Australian Air Force on projects starting with the [Lockheed Martin] AP-3C under Project Air 5276 and continuing today with the C-27J," said Bruce Trego, vice president and chief operating officer of L-3 Communications.

"We have worked closely with the Royal Australian Air Force, the US Air Force and our partner, Alenia Aermacchi, to deliver the aircraft to support the initial operational capability."

Trego said that in-country support for the C-27J in Australia will be provided by Airbus Group Australia Pacific.

Email: npittaway@defensenews.com

Nigel Pittaway is the Australia correspondent for Defense News.

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