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and a range of minor programmes.
It will oversee airlift capability that ranges from the strategic and inter-
theatre lift capability of the Boeing C-17A Globemaster IIIs and Airbus
Military KC-30A MRTTs, through the inter theatre airlift Lockheed Martin
C-130H and C-130J-30 Hercules fleets, down to intra-theatre lift envisioned
by the Phase Two platform, whilst Army rotary wing lift into consideration.
As can be seen, most of the pieces of the AIR 8000 jigsaw puzzle have
fallen into place, with just Phase Two and a C-130H replacement (Phase
One) still to be delivered.
With the introduction of the C-17 into service, the ageing C-130H
Hercules fleet began drawing down and four have already been withdrawn
from use and stored at Richmond. The remainder have been consolidated
into an enlarged 37 Squadron, which operates the C-130J-30 . Prior to
the DCP, the Defence White Paper flagged the acquisition of two further
C-130J-30s, to allow for C-130H retirement.
In some ways this is a puzzling move, as the new aircraft will not have the
same cargo loading system as the existing fleet. The system selected by the
RAAF is no longer offered by Lockheed Martin and most, if not all, other
C-130J customers have chosen the alternative - a sort of airlift version of
VHS versus Beta. This means Defence will either have to modify its existing
fleet, or tolerate two lots of spares holdings.
The DCP now states that a Year of Decision will not occur until the
2011to 2013 timeframe with an IOC of between 2013 and 2015. By that
time, the existing C-130J-30 fleet will be approaching 15 years old and
been in operational use in Iraq or Afghanistan for much of that time.
Derived from the earlier G.222, the C-27J was designed by an Alenia/
Lockheed Martin consortium, known as Lockheed Martin Alenia
Tactical Transport Systems (LMATTS), to be compatible with the
larger C-130J Hercules.
Though LMATTS dissolved in 2006, its legacy is the commonality
shared with the C-130J, including engines, flight deck layout and the
ability to carry Hercules-sized pallets without having to break them
down. As such, it is larger but more expensive than its Airbus rival.
Orders to date have come from Italy (12 ordered, 12 delivered),
Greece (12/10), Lithuania (3/3), Bulgaria (5/2), Romania (7/2),
Morocco (4/1) and the United States (21/4). The United States has
a requirement for 78 aircraft as part of its Joint Cargo Aircraft ( JCA)
programme, which sees aircraft split between the US Army and Air
Force. C -27Js have been used operationally in Afghanistan by both
Italy and Lithuania.
According to brochure figures, the C-27J can lift a 10 tonne payload
over 1850 km.
During the 2007 Avalon Airshow, media reports were suggesting
that the C-27J would be Sole-Source selected as the AIR 8000 Phase
Two winner by the then Howard Government. This did not occur, and
a change of Government later in the year saw everything thrown back
into the melting pot.
Given the pressures Defence faces over the next decade, one
can only hope that the AIR 8000 Phase Two competition is run as
advertised and the winner takes its place as the successor to the
Caribou. This will then restore Australia’s battlefield airlift capability
and allow the ‘interim’ King Air to move on to other tasks. APDR
According to the DCP, AIR 8000 Phase Two will seek a Military Off The
Shelf light tactical fixed wing airlift capability, to be sourced either
directly from an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) or through a
Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.
In part it says, “Phase Two is intended to enhance the ADFs intra-
theatre and regional airlift capability. This capability will focus on the
provision of an intra-theatre airlift solution with some inter-theatre
application. This capability will be able to operate from a wide-range
of rudimentary airstrips with useful payload, range and in-theatre
The preceding White Paper estimated that 10 aircraft would be
needed to fulfil the requirement and the two shortlisted competitors
from the last Caribou Replacement programme (AIR 5190 Light Tactical
Airlift Capability) are again the two contenders. As noted, the DCP
anticipates First Pass approval between now and the end of 2011,
with a Year of Decision following two or three years after that. Initial
Operating Capability is set at around 2015, six years after the Caribou
The two competitors are Airbus Military (formerly EADS-CASA) with
the C-295M and Alenia Aeronautica with the C-27J Spartan. Both can
lay claim to victory (of sorts) in the previous rounds and competitions,
and both have been frustrated by the process.
The Airbus Military C-295M is a growth development of the earlier
CN235-300, developed jointly between Spain and Indonesia. It is
the transport version of a family that includes Maritime Patrol and
Airbus Military say that “‘more than’ 85 aircraft have been ordered,
of which ‘more than’ 60 have been delivered (actual figures at the
end of June were 85 and 63 respectively)”. Announced customers of
all versions to date include Algeria (6), Brazil (12), Chile (3), Czech
Republic (4), Finland (3), Jordan (2), Mexico (7), Poland (12), Portugal
(12) and Spain (13). As well as Australia, the aircraft is competing in a
Canadian competition to replace that country’s CC-115 Buffalo fleet.
To date, the C-295M has seen operational service in Afghanistan with
the Polish Air Force.
Airbus Military was reportedly declared the winner of the previous
AIR 5190 programme before a review of ADF airlift requirements in the
wake of East Timor operations terminated it the early part of the last
Though smaller than the competing C-27J, the C-295M comes with a
reported price advantage and brochure figures suggest it can carry a 9.25
tonne payload over 1300 km. In the past, there has been a perception
that the aircraft is not a ‘real’ battlefield airlifter (possibly due to its
airliner-style cabin windows), but its service in Afghanistan and recent
operations in Chad and Haiti has done much to dispel this myth.
[AIR 8000 PHASE TWO
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