SOFEX 2014

Ready for the battlefield

05 May 2014

The combat proven twin-engined Alenia Aermacchi C-27J Spartan medium tactical transport aircraft is claimed by the firm to fly faster and higher, carry more cargo and be able to operate from smaller airfields compared with its direct competitors, and is also cheaper to operate. With these solid basic characteristics, says Alenia Aermacchi, the MC-27J was a natural first evolution of the baseline Spartan.

The MC-27J is a new multimission version of the aircraft, developed in collaboration with US company ATK, for which the partners have adopted a modular approach maximising the use of mission-pallet kits (roll-on/rolloff equipment), for both systems and armaments.

A fully configured MC-27J completed its first flight from the company’s Turin Test Flight Centre on 25 April. The demonstrator was modified with an L-3 Wescam MX-15Di electro-optical and infrared turret mounted under the nose of the aircraft, optimised for ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and search and rescue missions. It was also fitted with Link-16 datalink software and hardware provisions that will prepare the aircraft for the ATK palletised mission system installation.

Provisions for an upgraded Selex ES communication system with crypto capability have also been set up. The installation of the ATK developed modular roll-on/rolloff mission and weapon system, and a modified side door for the GAU-23 30mm cannon, will be completed in May. A new series of flight tests, including firing the side-mounted cannon, is scheduled for completion in June.

Soon to be battlefield tested in Afghanistan, the MC-27J is equipped with proven sensors/ communications/weapons suite able to accomplish a wide range of customer-driven missions, including irregular warfare and contingency operations, air mobility, C3-ISR/ ISTAR, special operations, antipiracy, fire support through a 30x173mm ATK GAU-23 Bushmaster cannon and precision-guided munitions that will soon be available to be launched by Common Launch Tubes to limit collateral damage. It is said to have good survivability in semi-permissive and non-permissive environments, is highly interoperable with other assets, and has lower acquisition cost and cost-per-flying-hour than other combat assets.

The MC-27J is ideally suited to operate in some of the most remote and austere environments that typically host irregular and Counter Insurgency (COIN) warfare. It has the capability to operate from small, remote and austere airfields, and its APU enables the aircraft to have full operational autonomy with a corresponding higher level of operational safety. With its blend of lethality, air mobility and ISTAR capabilities, says the company, the MC-27J provides the answer to modern asymmetric warfare needs for many air forces around the world.

Alenia Aermacchi has delivered 56 C-27Js out of confirmed orders for 76 of the type, but has yet to find a buyer for the new MC-27J.

The Italian Air Force will convert three of its C-27Js into MC-27J Pretorian models in 2016. A breakthrough in the Middle East is eagerly being pursued, as the main competitor, the Airbus C295M, has already secured orders from Jordan and Oman.

(483 words)