WASHINGTON, April 11 (UPI) -- New U.S. Air Force C-27J Spartan aircraft to be mothballed because of budget cuts are instead being transferred to the Coast Guard.
According to Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp, 14 of 21 Spartans are being provided to the Coast Guard by the Air Force while seven others are being given to U.S. Special Operations Command.
Obtaining the medium-lift transporters built by Alenia Aeronautica for free “saves us about a half a billion dollars in acquisition costs, and we're off and running the program now,” he said.
The aircraft are expected to be operational with the Coast Guard in fiscal 2016 following instructor qualification and pilot and maintenance training.
The Air Force’s decision to rid itself of the aircraft because of budget constraints was made last year, coinciding with the Coast Guard’s need to obtain medium-range fixed wing aircraft. The Guard originally contracted to purchase 18 HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft.
“But then last year, when the Air Force put up these brand-new C-27J's as excess, we thought, ‘Wow, if we can get 21 for free, that really lowers the lifecycle cost significantly,’” Papp said.
Papp said part of the cost savings comes from the fact that the two-engine C-27J uses the same engines and avionics as the four-engine C-130J Super Hercules, which is slowly replacing the Coast Guard’s fleet of older C-130H aircraft.
“Initially, we really don't have to do much more than paint them,” he said of the C-27Js. “It has all the communications gear, it has a good surface search radar -- we ultimately will want to put a sensor package in it very similar to what we use in our HC-144s and our C-130s, and that we will put in the budget in future years -- but we can put that aircraft to work almost immediately after we get people trained up on it.”