C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft

Article excerpt

Recent experiences in overseas combat operations have demonstrated that America needs an improved capability for medium airlift inside combat theaters and in support of the global war on terrorism. U.S. warfighters will soon experience that improved intratheater airlift capability through the recently awarded Joint cargo aircraft (JCA) program.

JCA began as an "Army-only" future cargo aircraft (FCA) studies program in the late 1990s. According to Army planners, the resulting "F-series" studies recognized a gap in the ability to meet U.S. Army direct-support requirements for time-sensitive, missioncritical cargo and passenger delivery to service elements. Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force was also exploring its own capabilities in a similar tactical arena under a program called the light cargo aircraft (LCA).

After a Joint requirements oversight council approved an initial capabilities document (and validated the requirements to fill the operational gap) in March 2005, a December 2005 program decision memorandum directed the merging of the Army FCA and the Air Force LCA programs into a single Joint service JCA program, with acquisition responsibilities placed under a Joint program office. In June 2006, the Army Vice Chief of Staff and the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff signed a JCA memorandum of agreement, and in October of that year the JCA Joint Program Office (JPO) stood up at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Ala.

In their March 2007 testimony before the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, Lt. Gen. John M. Curran, who was deputy commanding general, Futures and director, U.S. Army Capabilities Integration Center, and Maj. Gen.(P) Jeffrey A. Sorenson, who was then the deputy for Acquisition and Systems Management, Office of the Assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, focused on the cooperative progress made by the JPO and the continuing need to fill the intratheater lift gap.

"In light of the great progress and successes we have made with respect to the Joint program, it is appropriate for the JPO to execute the appropriated funding in support of the JCA acquisition strategy as approved by [the Undersecretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics)]. ... The global war on terrorism has only confirmed our need for this capability as we have attempted to fill this gap with a marginal solution using an inadequate platform, the C-23 Sherpa, and an inappropriate use of the CH-47 Chinook," their combined statement read.

Following a competitive acquisition process, the JCA contract was awarded in mid-June 2007 to an industry team that included L-3 Communications' Integrated Systems (L-3/IS) Group, Alenia North America (a Finmeccanica company), Boeing Integrated Defense Systems and Global Military Aircraft Systems. According to Alison Hartley, senior vice president of Business Development with L-3 Communications Integrated Systems, the first two aircraft are on order for delivery in September and November 2008.

The team had offered the C-27J Spartan for their JCA solution, broadly characterizing the platform as "a multimission cargo aircraft that will fill the current capability gap in Joint aerial delivery based on its ability to transport critical cargo and personnel, self-deploy over strategic distances, land in austere locations, operate autonomously and provide routine and combat aerial sustainment to the Joint force."

Furthermore, according to the Joint statement, "The C-27J will replace the U.S. Army's C-23 Sherpas, C-26 and various C-12 aircraft, and will augment the U.S. Air Force's existing fleet of intratheater airlifters. The aircraft will play a key role in providing responsive aerial sustainment, critical resupply, medevac, troop transport, airdrop operations, humanitarian assistance and missions in support of homeland security."

With a wingspan of 94.16 feet and a nose-to-tail length of 74. …