The Australian Government has signed a Commonwealth Avionics Upgrade Acquisition Contract for the C-27J Spartan Light Tactical Fixed Wing fleet. The $70 million contract with Leonardo will result in the replacement and upgrade of existing radio capability, further improving the overall safety and suitability of the C-27J platform.Leonardo was selected to undertake the upgrade as the Prime contractor and the original manufacturer of the Spartan. They hold specialist knowledge and the expertise needed to conduct these major modifications to the aircraft. No. 35 Squadron and Northrop Grumman personnel will modify the C-27J as part of routine maintenance. The Commonwealth Avionics Upgrade will begin in September 2023 at RAAF Base Amberley and is due to be completed in 2026.
Head of Aerospace Systems Division, Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Leon Phillips said,”The C-27J Spartan was an important capability for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Operated by No. 35 Squadron, the C-27J Spartan fleet provides essential transportation and aerial delivery of passengers, troops and cargo, support to search and rescue missions, and aeromedical evacuation in our region. Upgrading the cryptographic radio function of the C-27J platform will ensure ongoing availability of secure communications, including interoperability with key strategic partners and intelligence networks, and increased overall safety for our Australian Defence Force personnel.”
The Alenia C-27J Spartan is a military transport aircraft developed and manufactured by Leonardo’s Aircraft Division (formerly Alenia Aermacchi until 2016). It is an advanced derivative of Alenia Aeronautica’s earlier G.222 (C-27A Spartan in U.S. service), equipped with the engines and various other systems also used on the larger Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules. In addition to the standard transport configuration, specialized variants of the C-27J have been developed for maritime patrol, search and rescue, C3 ISR, fire support/ground-attack and electronic warfare missions. The C-27J has also been ordered by the military air units of Australia, Bulgaria, Chad, Italy, Greece, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Zambia and an undisclosed country.
Royal Australian Air Force ordered ten C-27Js, deliveries begun in 2014 and ending in April 2018. They are operated by No. 35 Squadron and based at RAAF Base Amberley. The C-27J Spartan complements the Australian Defence Force’s existing air mobility fleet. They are the long-awaited replacements for the Vietnam War-era Caribous that were withdrawn from service in 2009. The C-27J was chosen over the arguably less capable but cheaper Airbus C-295. The capabilities of the C-27J bridge the gap between Australian Army helicopters and larger Royal Australian Air Force aircraft. The Spartan can operate from unsurfaced airstrips, and support humanitarian missions in remote locations. Much like the Royal Australian Air Force Hercules and Globemaster, the C-27J Spartan can: airdrop cargo and paratroops in-flight; airlift a variety of cargo loads; and conduct aeromedical evacuation of sick or wounded personnel.