Alenia C-27J Spartan is a medium-sized military transport aircraft. The C-27J is an advanced derivative of Alenia Aeronautica's G.222 (C-27A Spartan in U.S. service), with the engines and systems of the Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules. The aircraft was selected as the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) for the United States military, for which L3 is the prime contractor.
The C-27J has also been ordered by the military air units of Australia, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Mexico, Morocco, Romania and Peru.
In 1995, Alenia and Lockheed Martin began discussions to improve Alenia's G.222 using C-130J's glass cockpit and a more powerful version of the G.222's T64G engine and four-blade propellers. The companies began a program for the improved G.222, named C-27J in 1996. This was a U.S. military type designation based on the G.222's C-27A U.S. designation. Alenia and Lockheed Martin formed Lockheed Martin Alenia Tactical Transport Systems (LMATTS) for the development of the C-27J in 1997. The design was changed to use the C-130J Super Hercules's Rolls-Royce AE 2100 engine and six-blade propeller. Other design changes include a fully digital 1553 systems and avionics architecture, and updated the cargo compartment to further increase commonality. The C-27J has a 35% increase in range and a 15% faster cruise speed than the G.222.
By 2005, the U.S. Army had identified the need to replace its aging C-23 Sherpa lifter. The Sherpa's performance was inadequate in the hot, high terrain of Southwest Asia. In lieu of adequate fixed-wing airlift availability, the U.S. Army's CH-47 helicopter fleet was being worked hard to fill the "last tactical mile" transporting supplies to forward located troops. The C-27J was intended by the U.S. Army to give "Direct Support" capability, and reduce the stress on their CH-47 fleet.
The LMATTS joint venture was later dissolved when Lockheed Martin chose to offer the C-130J in 2006 as a contender in the same U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) competition in which the C-27J was competing. Alenia Aeronautica then paired with L-3 Communications to form the Global Military Aircraft Systems (GMAS) joint venture to market the C-27J. Boeing later joined Alenia and L-3 Communications as a GMAS team member.
The GMAS team bid the C-27J in the Joint Cargo Aircraft competition against Raytheon and EADS North America's C-295. Both the U.S. Army and Air Force JCA orders combined are expected to top 100 aircraft. The JCA will eventually replace the existing Short C-23 Sherpa, Beechcraft C-12 Huron and Fairchild C-26 Metroliners in the Army National Guard, and will become a substitute tactical airlift platform for those Air National Guard airlift groups or airlift wings losing C-130 aircraft to retirement or Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) action redistribution of aircraft (C-130H/C-130J). The C-27J completed the U.S. Department of Defense's Early User Survey evaluations by November 2006, flying 26 hours and surpassing all the JCA program requirements. The GMAS team also announced that the C-27J will be assembled at a facility at Cecil Field, Duval County, Florida.
While the final selection of the JCA was expected to be announced in March 2007, the decision came on 13 June 2007, when the Pentagon selected the C-27J as its Joint Cargo Aircraft. A contract worth US$2.04 billion was awarded to the L-3 Communications team for 78 C-27Js along with training and support on 13 June 2007. At this time, the U.S. Army had requirement for up to 75 aircraft in the Army National Guard; the Air Force had a requirement for up to 70 aircraft in the Air Force Special Operations Command and the Air National Guard.
On 22 June 2007, Raytheon formally protested the award of the JCA contract to the Alenia C-27J. On 27 September 2007, the GAO announced that it had denied Raytheon's protest, thereby allowing the Pentagon to go ahead with the C-27J procurement. Prior to Raytheon's protest, the first C-27J aircraft were to begin delivery to the joint U.S. Army-Air Force test and training program in June 2008. The first flight of a U.S. C-27J occurred on 17 June 2008.
Romania ordered seven C-27Js for delivery from 2008 to replace Antonov An-24 and Antonov An-26 aircraft, beating the EADS CASA C-295. However, the order was blocked by the government in February 2007 upon a legal challenge filed by EADS. In June 2007, the order was confirmed again when the Romanian court rejected EADS' complaint. The Romanian government officially signed the contract for the delivery of seven C-27Js on 7 December 2007, with the first two Spartans delivered on 12 April 2010.