RAAF’s C27J aircraft put on problem project watchlist

The acquisition of the C-27J Spartan aircraft – which has suffered months of delays – has been added to a Defence Department watchlist because of problems with its design.

The RAAF bought the Italian-built plane as a replacement for the Caribou. It fits in between the Chinook helicopter and larger Hercules and C-17 cargo aircraft for carrying troops and equipment. It has the short take-off and landing ability needed for battlefield airlift.

Ten aircraft have been delivered and final operational capability was meant to be declared last December.

But RAAF officials have admitted this milestone would not be met until December this year at the earliest because the aircraft’s electronic self-protection system, which is designed to keep it safe when under fire, does not meet required standards.

“The C-27J program has been challenging and … there have been significant delays in terms of achieving the capability outcomes that were originally determined,” Air Vice-Marshal Catherine Roberts told Parliament’s public works committee earlier this month.

Under questioning from Labor’s assistant defence spokesman Pat Conroy, Air Vice-Marshal Roberts agreed that the C-27J would not be able to fly into all types of battle zones.

But she said C27J strategic airlift aircraft ahad made a useful contribution to bushfire relief efforts.

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