Australia’s 2009 defense white paper made a wide range of commitments, one of which involved replacing the outstanding service provided by Australia’s gull-winged DHC-4 Caribou short takeoff light tactical transports. That particular project had been proposed and delayed repeatedly for over 20 years. In February 2009, the planes it was meant to replace finally had to be retired, after 45 years of service. Without a replacement.
There have been a range of competitions in this class on the international market. While some customers like US Special Forces have chosen Sikorsky subsidiary PZL Mielec’s M-28 Skytruck, most of these competitions are between Airbus Military’s C295, and Alenia’s C-27J Spartan. The Spartan is faster than the C295, and can carry larger and heavier loads, including light helicopters and patrol vehicles. The C-295M offers endurance advantages, and lower operating costs. Neither can match the Caribou’s short take-off performance, but they’re what’s available, and different countries have made different choices. Now, Australia has made its choice: a sole-source C-27J buy, with deliveries slated to begin in 2015.