Slovakia Chooses Alenia’s C-27J Light Transport Aircraft
Around the world, buyers of light military transport aircraft face 3 main choices: Alenia’s C-27J Spartan, EADS-CASA’s C-295M, or Russia’s AN-32. EADS-CASA began with notable leads in orders and customers over its C-27J rival. Spain, Algeria, Brazil, Finland, Jordan, Poland, and Portugal picked the C-295M, which offers better range, more cost-efficient operation, and more standard cargo pallets in its longer fuselage. Then the USA’s Joint Cargo Aircraft program made Alenia a winner, and will order at least 78 C-27Js. That tipped the production balance, and appears to be adjusting decision calculations as well. The C-27J’s customers now include Italy, Bulgaria, Greece, Lithuania, Morocco, Romania, and the USA. Its larger fuselage diameter and reinforced floor let it carry tactical loads like vehicles and small helicopters as well as pallets, and its design gives it both a higher top speed and commonalities with the global C-130J Hercules medium transport fleet. If US Special Operations Command has its way, an AC-27J “Baby Spooky” gunship variant may be next.
Slovakia has now become the latest country to opt for the C-27J, beating rumored offers from EADS-CASA (C-295M) and Lockheed Martin (C-130J). Alenia was named as the preferred bidder in late December 2008, and negotiations will now focus on Slovakia’s 100% requirement for industrial investment offsets. Alenia’s key partners Rolls Royce (engines) and the Czech Republic’s Aero Vodochody (center wing boxes) are also likely to be involved in these discussions.
The order is unlikely to be large, as the country has just 2 AN-26 and 1 AN-24 aircraft to replace. Another AN-24 was lost over Hungary in January 2006 when it crashed while returning from Kosovo, killing all 42 soldiers on board. Previous approval discussions for the Slovakian program focused on figures of about $112 million equivalent, which would suffice for 2-3 aircraft plus the usual spares, training, and other costs associated with a new aircraft type. Flight International | Jane’s | Midkiff Consultancy, Czech Republic.