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Leonardo’s C-27J Spartan: when capability matters

Line of Defence Magazine, Autumn 2018

The C-27J Spartan.The C-27J Spartan.


In this article, Leonardo argues the case for its multi-mission tactical airlifter, the C-27J Spartan. A short, austere airstrip specialist, it’s an aircraft that can reach places others can’t.


There are two kinds of medium military transport airplanes: civil derivative ones that offer good overall characteristics when used in typically benign environments, and ‘real’ military multi-role airlifters designed to be capable to operate in every scenario and in all conditions.

The Leonardo C-27J Spartan has been designed as a true military tactical/battlefield airlifter and to routinely operate from short austere and even unprepared airstrips. Due to its structural robustness and systems redundancy, the Spartan offers unique qualities not found in aircraft of the same class or derived from commercial turboprops: ruggedness, reliability, outstanding survivability and maneuverability.

The installation of an APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) makes the aircraft totally independent from ground support, giving it the capability to perform autonomous operations from remote areas. The APU operates the air conditioning, hydraulics, electrical systems and, when installed in the medevac configuration, the medical equipment.

In terms of flight performance, the C-27J boasts a cruise speed of up to 325 kts, which is at least 20-25 percent higher than its direct competitor, a quick climb ability of 10,000 ft in less than six minutes (one-half to one-third of the time needed by the competition) and superior maneuverability, allowing the aircraft to operate with ease and safety in mountainous environments or in remote areas – aided also by its agility and controllability at low speed.

The Spartan is qualified to perform short take-offs and landings (STOL) with a run of less than 600m at take-off and less than 400m to landing at its near maximum weight - on snowy, sandy and unprepared airfields. Compared with other military transport aircraft in its class, the C-27J has the best descent and climb rate (4,000 and 2,500 ft/min) and an ability to perform 3g tactical manoeuvres, minimising its approach phase and reaching a safe altitude more quickly in high threat scenarios.


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Employed with full satisfaction by some of the most formidable air forces, including the US Army, US Coast Guard and Australia’s RAAF, the Spartan has already fully proven its ability to effectively accomplish any tactical transport mission, ranging from disaster relief to ‘last tactical mile’ troop support.

Modern air forces benefit from highly cost-effective aircraft capable of being quickly reconfigured to perform a high number of different missions whilst retaining its primary role of tactical airlifter. Multiple Roll-On/Roll-Off easily installable and transportable mission kits and systems allow the C-27J to be configured to carry out a range of tactical transport roles, including transportation of troops, cargo, paratroops and VIPs, cargo airdrop, medivac/casevac, search and rescue, ISR and fire support.

The C-27J cargo bay boasts the largest cross section in its class (3.33 x 2.60 m), a wide rear door with opening ramp, a strong cargo floor (4,900 kg/m max load along the entire fuselage length), large paratroop side doors, a cargo loading system designed to handle standard 463L pallets/platforms and many types of cargo loads that can be easily loaded, transported and air-dropped.

A long-awaited replacement for the Vietnam-era Caribou, Australia took delivery of 10 Spartans in 2015. According to Air Marshal Geoff Brown, the then Australian Chief of Air Force, “The relatively small Spartan is capable of accessing 1,900 airfields in Australia, and 400 in the region - more than double the number accessible by the larger Hercules. This will allow RAAF to support humanitarian missions as well as battlefield airlift in remote locations and unprepared airstrips common in Australia’s region.

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


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