The RAAF has taken delivery of its tenth and final Leonardo/L-3 C-27J Spartan battlefield airlifter.
The delivery is the latest milestone for the Project AIR 8000 Phase 2 program which saw 10 C-27Js ordered in 2012 to replace the obsolete but much-loved DHC-4 Caribou transport.
“The Spartan provides flexibility to Defence operations, allowing us to land at airfields that are smaller or unsuitable for our much larger transport aircraft like the C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster,” Defence Minister Marise Payne said in a statement. “The Spartan can carry up to five tonnes of cargo and is capable of moving troops, equipment and supplies; conducting aero-medical evacuation missions and conducting air drops.”
Following a Foreign Military Sales request issued in late 2011, the C-27J was formally selected for AIR 8000 Phase 2 in May 2012. The first RAAF C-27J subsequently flew in December 2013, and delivery of the first aircraft to the RAAF Richmond based 35SQN occurred in May 2015.
Since then, the unit has been building its fleet and personnel cadre, and has already conducted operations in Papua New Guinea, and taken part in major exercises in New Caledonia, Guam, New Zealand and in Australia. Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for the C-27J was achieved in December 2016.
In 2019, 35SQN will relocate from Richmond to RAAF Amberley to be co-located with the and closer to the numerous Army units it was acquired to support.
“The relocation to Amberley will allow 35 Squadron to work from facilities purpose-built for the Spartan, and to be more responsive when deploying across Australia and into the Asia Pacific,” Minister Payne said.
Final Operational Capability (FOC) is scheduled to occur once the squadron has relocated and all new facilities are completed.