Rolls-Royce has announced a 9-year, $900 million agreement with Alenia Aeronautica that makes them the exclusive provider of engine and propeller assemblies for these light transport aircraft. The C-27J uses Rolls Royce’s AE 2100D2 turboprop engine, and Dowty’s 6-bladed propellers. These 6,000 shp engines benefit from over 80% parts commonality with the Rolls Royce AE family of engines which includes the AE 2100D3 that equips the 4-engine C-130J Hercules, and the AE 1107C-Liberty that currently quips the USA’s V-22 Osprey tilt-rotors.
A 2006 contract between Alenia Aeronautica and Rolls Royce already covered 42 systems, which would be enough to equip 21 of the twin-engine C-27Js. The new contract raises that number, guaranteeing a new total of 155 systems. In addition, 78 C-27J aircraft and up to 180 engines were placed under contract by the US Armed Forces’ Joint Cargo Aircraft program, with potential volumes of up to 145 aircraft and a correspondingly higher number of engines. Rolls Royce release.
Hawker Beechcraft Corp. in Wichita, KS received an estimated $48.8 million firm-fixed-price contract from the US Navy for 6 C-12 replacement aircraft. Work will be performed in Wichita, KS and is expected to be completed in February 2011. This contract was competitively procured via electronic request for proposal by the Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-08-C-0057). The aircraft are actually destined for the US Marines, as the replacement contract for a UC-12 fleet that’s more than 25 years old. See also NAVAIR release.
The old C-12/UC-12 is also known as the Huron, and was derivative of the civilian Beechcraft King Air 200. It can land on airfields under 3,000 feet in length, and is used for VIP and light transport duties. These short-field capabilities, coupled with the small size of many urgent needs on the front lines, have pressed many of these aircraft into service in theater. Hawker Beechcraft has confirmed that the Marines’ new light utility aircraft will be variants of the new King Air 350C, however, a slightly larger aircraft with 23.5% more engine power, improved speed and rate of climb, and slightly more load-carrying capacity. The Australian RAAF and the Iraqi Air Force have also bought the new King Air 350; Iraq ordered it for light transport duties, and as a specialized intelligence & surveillance platform.
The new King Air 350Cs do not yet have a formal military designation, but NAVAIR assures DID that they will come with built-in protective systems. In contrast, American UC-12s have often had their in-theater flights limited or at risk due to their their lack of protection against shoulder fired ground-air missiles like the SA-7. Fortunately, Iraqi flights have become much less dangerous these days. Tribal revolts against al-Qaeda, the corollary improvements in local intelligence, and a strategy of targeting Iranian operatives in theater, have combined to put a strong crimp in key sources of missiles and trained manpower that contributed to this threat.