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U.S. Coast Guard receiving Alenia Aermacchi aircraft

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- U.S. Coast Guard pilots will soon be flying the Alenia Aermacchi C-27J, an Italian transport plane, under a transfer from the U.S. Air Force.

Alenia North America reported 14 of the twin turbo-engine aircraft will be transferred to the Coast Guard and will begin flight operations within six to 12 months.

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The Coast Guard will use the aircraft for search-and-rescue work, as well as illicit drug and illegal migrant interdiction missions.

"The C-27J will play an important role in improving the response capability and operational effectiveness of the USCG and generating significant cost savings for the taxpayer," Alenia North America said. "With this transfer, the USCG will receive an aircraft with the advanced medium surveillance capabilities needed to further enhance its ability to perform critical missions."

Transfer of the aircraft to the Coast Guard was approved under the 2014 Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress last year and signed into law by President Barack Obama.

The C-27J is a turboprop aircraft with a cruise speed of 362 miles per hour. It first came into service with the Italian air force in 2006.

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