RAAF redefines the role of the C-27J Spartan fleet

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has redefined the role of its 10 Leonardo C-27J Spartan tactical airlifters, designating them as primarily meant for use in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations.

The Department of Defence (DoD) in Canberra said in a 25 July news release that the Spartans’ new role will “enhance Australia’s humanitarian and emergency response to natural disasters in Australia and our near region, regional engagement across the Indo-Pacific, including through ‘Pacific Step-Up’, and the Australian Defence Force’s military logistics and air-mobility capability”.

Both Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld and the head of Air Force Capability, Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, praised the Spartan’s performance, highlighting domestic bushfire relief and regional assistance, without giving any explanation for the amended role.

The announcement follows the failure of the twin-turboprop aircraft to achieve full operational capability (FOC) in December 2020: a milestone that had already been delayed by four years. It also comes after the platform had been identified as a DoD “project of interest” in March 2020 following its failure to meet key performance, availability, and project schedule requirements.

The C-27J had previously been consistently described by the RAAF as a battlefield aircraft to bridge the intra-theatre gap between army helicopters such as the CH-47F Chinook and the RAAF’s C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster III transports.

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